‘Concerning’: B.C.’s snowpack lowest in 50 years at 63% of normal

The latest snow survey and water supply bulletin from the BC River Forecast Centre has provincial officials worried about the coming spring and summer months.

The report said B.C.’s snowpack is at 63 per cent of normal right now, which is the lowest in 50 years.

Last year at this time, B.C.’s provincial snowpack average was at 88 per cent.

“We know this is concerning news. Communities around B.C. experienced serious drought conditions last summer,” B.C. Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship Nathan Cullen said.

“It fuelled the worst wildfire season ever, harmed fish and wildlife, and affected farmers, ranchers, First Nations and industry.”

Despite a stormy start to the month, dry conditions persisted throughout March with near-record lows in precipitation for the province.

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“Low snowpack and seasonal runoff forecasts combined with warm seasonal weather forecasts and lingering impacts from ongoing drought are creating significantly elevated drought hazards for this upcoming spring and summer,” BC River Forecast staff said in the report.

The Fraser River at Hope is well below normal as well, sitting at 61 per cent.

Click to play video: 'How will B.C.’s low snowpack impact the province this summer?'

How will B.C.’s low snowpack impact the province this summer?

The province said lessons have been learned in the past few years, and is trying to prepare as best it can for the months ahead.

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“We are taking action now to help communities, farmers and industry prepare for drought now so we can respond quickly, recover faster and be more ready for drier conditions,” Cullen said.

Cullen pointed to the province’s actions of helping producers, ranchers and farmers, which include a new $100-million investment over the past two years in the Agriculture and Water Infrastructure program, as work is being done in preparation for the incoming and inevitable spring/summer drought.

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The province is hosting more than 30 in-person workshops in different communities including in the Interior, Cariboo, Kootenays, Lower Mainland, Peace region and Vancouver Island areas.

These workshops will help producers “improve their irrigation systems, explore options for on-site water storage and how to better manage water during times of scarcity.”

According to the province, different drought management aspects farmers can practice are:

  • Crop selection and management
  • Fertilizer management under drought conditions
  • How to assess your soil water storage capacity
  • Irrigation management when water supplies are short
  • Livestock management

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Cullen also is urging British Columbians to be prepared and to do their best at conserving water.

“Everyone can do their part to practice conservation by taking small steps to reduce their water consumption, whether that means taking shorter showers, watering your lawn sparingly or not at all and, most importantly, following local water restrictions,” he said.

“B.C. businesses, local governments, First Nations, and community and environmental organizations are working to conserve water and reduce water usage. Small changes make a big difference when we do them together.”

In the Southern Interior, the Okanagan is slightly above the provincial average as are the Kootenays.

The Okanagan is at 73 per cent of normal, though that’s down from 86 per cent in February and 80 per cent in March.

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The West Kootenay basin is at 72 per cent of normal (same as March) while the East Kootenay basin is at 76 per cent (down from 81 per cent).

Click to play video: 'B.C. warns of upcoming fire season, saying an earlier start is expected'

B.C. warns of upcoming fire season, saying an earlier start is expected

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