Health of British Columbia’s rivers will depend largely on summer rainfall, according to River Forecast Centre
The influence of the snow melt season occurring about a month early this year is expected to continue through the summer, with the largest departures from normal flows occurring in late-June and through July. “The province has registered 13 per cent of the normal amount of snowpack in the mountains after high temperatures in March, April and early May,” reported David Campbell. “River water flows are sitting at about one-quarter to three-quarters of what they would normally be this time of year.”
“I would say the canary in the coal mine, which probably prompted that is the Cowichan River,” said Julie Pisani, Regional District of Nanaimo. The Cowichan River is at less than 20 per cent of its normal median flow for this time of year. It’s a similar tale for other rivers in the region. “Even though we had better snow accumulation through the winter, the warm weather has melted the snow that did accumulate … so that translates into stream flows being lower than normal as well.”
Total water use is down 18 per cent since 2009, according to research led by Jordi Honey-Rosés, a professor in the School of Community and Regional Planning at the University of B.C. “The jury is still out on whether that decrease is due to policy changes such as water metering or other factors such as urban densification, where we are packing in more people who don’t have any outdoor water use,” he said.
Metro Vancouver proceeding with study to assess potential benefits of universal water metering program
“Basically water metering is a way to charge people for how much water they use and that does help people reduce how much they consume,” says North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto, who is also the chair of Metro Vancouver’s utilities committee. The committee will have to decide if the environmental benefits would be worth the extra cost. Mussatto says the study is also looking at other alternatives — including hiring additional bylaw officers to enforce water restrictions during dry summer months.
For British Columbians, 2015 was the year of the great drought, dwindling snow packs, melting glaciers, beleaguered salmon runs and a costly forest fire season, followed by windstorms and heavy rains. This provided context for an article written by veteran Vancouver Province reporter Kent Spencer that speculated as to whether there is a connection with “the Blob” and the changing climate in BC.
According to Inder Singh, the region will have an adequate supply of water this summer. Snowpack in the South Coast Mountains is lower than the historical average, but is well above the record low levels measured last spring ahead of the summer drought. “Water usage patterns will be monitored throughout the summer period so adjustments can be made to meet the regional water demand appropriately across the three main source lakes,” his report stated.
Western North America may be crossing an invisible threshold into a different hydro-meteorological regime. It has been difficult even for experts to grasp the extent of what the loss of relative hydrological stability means. “Communities in southwest BC dodged a bullet in 2015. Communities need to leverage this teachable year and seize opportunities to change how the water resource is viewed and managed,” states Kim Stephens.
The Water Sustainability Act is a lengthy and comprehensive document. Much of the detail about how government will implement these seven new policy directions will be provided in regulations and operational policies. “The act’s coming into force is only one part of the long journey to a truly substantial, sustainable water law regime. This process is still a work in progress,” states Oliver Brandes.
For British Columbians, 2015 was the year of the great drought, dwindling snow packs, melting glaciers, beleaguered salmon runs and a costly forest fire season, followed by windstorms and heavy rains. “Appreciating the unforeseeable means we should be prepared to reduce water use, consider alternative water supplies, capture any rain we do receive, and protect vulnerable ecosystems and important water uses during drought periods,” states Steve Conrad.
In September 2015, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “This promises to be the most comprehensive and inclusive effort to positively change the world in all of human history. This may well be the most important thing we have ever done for ourselves and for our planet,.” stated Bob Sandford.