Report: BC Hydro responding to unprecedented late summer drought on B.C. waterways
VANCOUVER: With extended heat and little to no rain in the short-term forecast, BC Hydro continues to adjust its operations to reduce impacts on communities and the environment due to the drought.
In a new report titled “Casting drought: How climate change is contributing to uncertain weather and how BC Hydro’s generation system is adapting,” [PDF, 1.0 MB] BC Hydro finds while there is adequate water at its larger facilities and it can easily meet the demand for power, inflows into reservoirs at some of its smaller facilities in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island are at near or recording-breaking levels.
“With the extremely hot and dry conditions, BC Hydro has been taking proactive steps at many of our South Coast facilities for months to conserve water to protect the downstream fish habitat,” said Mora Scott, BC Hydro spokesperson. “We began holding back water in July and August at some facilities anticipating the dry conditions to help ensure we would have water storage for the later summer and early fall salmon spawning.”
BC Hydro’s reservoirs play an important role in managing these difficult conditions by using storage and planning releases to provide protection to downstream river flows. While the dry conditions have had an impact on BC Hydro’s watersheds, several unregulated natural river systems – not related to BC Hydro- have fared worse, with rivers drying up and thousands of fish killed.
BC Hydro is currently seeing the most significant impacts on operations at Puntledge and Campbell River on Vancouver Island as well as Coquitlam and Ruskin/Stave in the Lower Mainland. Campbell River, for example, broke a 53-year-old record for the month of September with the lowest inflows. In the Lower Mainland, inflows since the beginning of September are in the bottom three compared to historical records.
To help manage water levels on Vancouver Island, BC Hydro reduced Puntledge River flows by one-third last week and on the Lower Mainland reduced flows at Coquitlam (by one-third) and Ruskin/Stave (by one-quarter).
While many of BC Hydro’s smaller systems in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island are under some pressure, there are no concerns about continued power delivery. British Columbians benefit from BC Hydro’s integrated, provincial electricity system to send power across the province, including to Vancouver Island. Most of the electricity generated and used in B.C. is produced by larger facilities in the north and southeast of the province – and while water levels in those areas are below normal levels, there is enough water to meet the province’s power needs.
Forecasts are currently showing little rain in the near-term; however, historically, precipitation and inflows show up by the end of October. If that does not happen, BC Hydro will continue to closely track weather and inflow forecasts to adapt its operations to protect fish.
Unpredictable weather patterns related to climate change are expected to continue in the years ahead and BC Hydro is constantly adapting to these evolving conditions. Its system is designed and operated to perform safely across a wide range of conditions and extreme events, and BC Hydro staff are highly trained and experienced to adapt quickly to changing conditions. BC Hydro is also:
- Continuously working to improve its weather and inflow forecasting. For example, all coastal watersheds can now be forecasted down to the hour, which improves the forecast accuracy for extreme events.
- Expanding its hydroclimate monitoring technology. This includes custom-made solutions that have been designed inhouse, as well as upgrading snow survey stations to automated, real-time snow and climate stations.
- Investing in capital projects—like spillway gate replacements—that will increase resiliency of the system to climate change.
BC Hydro Media Relations
p. 604 928 6468