Growers across the province have been pinning their hopes on winter delivering the hit of moisture needed to address last summer’s dry conditions.
The Peace region entered winter at Level 5 drought for the second year in a row, while four of the province’s 34 basins – the Upper Fraser East and West, the Kettle and East Kootenay – entered winter at Level 4. Just three basins, all in the Northwest, were drought-free.
But winter has so far failed to deliver, with the latest update to snow basin indices on Jan. 10 showing much of the province with less than 75% of the snow pack usual for the date. The Stikine, Nechako and Skeena-Nass are the exceptions, at 96%, 84% and 80% of normal, respectively.
The regular water supply bulletin issued by the BC River Forecast Centre on Jan. 1 described the provincial snow pack as “extremely low,” at 44% below normal. This compares to 18% below normal a year earlier.
“The low snow pack could significantly affect ongoing drought concerns into summer 2024,” the bulletin reported, while noting, “There are still three or more months left in the snow accumulation season and the snow pack can still change significantly based on upcoming weather patterns.”
The Chilcotin and Skagit are in the most dire condition, the bulletin said, with zero snowpack. Basins across the Southern Interior, South Coast and Vancouver Island are also extremely dry, with the Similkameen at 32%, the Lower Fraser at 35% and the South Coast at 36% of normal.
Five stations in the Lower Fraser Basin reported record lows, including the Chilliwack River station. Province-wide, 15 stations reported all-time lows.
The bulletin said the low snowpack could result in various adverse effects, including on agricultural water use. However, BC Premier David Eby has said he would like to avoid the shut-downs seen last summer, which curtailed irrigation of forage crops in several drought-affected regions.
The next water supply bulletin is scheduled for release February 8.