Drought conditions improve for Vancouver Island’s rivers

Eric Plummer, July 17, 2019

Like many rivers on western Vancouver Island, the Somass has benefitted from rain and cooler temperatures over the last month. (Eric Plummer photo)

Vancouver Island, BC — 

A month after the province sounded alarms with a drought advisory, the situation on Vancouver Island has improved, with better water flows and cooler temperatures in the region’s rivers.

B.C.’s Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has downgraded the drought rating for western Vancouver Island to “dry” from the more severe level 3 it had in June. The east side of the island remains at a level 3 “very dry” rating due to lower rivers in vicinity of Nanaimo, Parksville and Duncan, said Jonathan Boyd, a hydrologist with the province’s River Forecast Centre.

He said milder temperatures over the last month have helped to improve the drought situation.

“We haven’t had any high pressure ridges, which create the long spells of incredibly hot weather,” said Boyd. “Because of that there’s been a few storm systems that have actually washed in and increased the flows pretty substantially, especially on the west side of the island, where flows rebounded from - in some cases - being at record lows.”

This will bring some relief to those closely watching the migration of salmon, which are benefitting from cooler river temperatures in the Alberni region.

“The stream flows are still low - the snowpack is essentially gone - but we’ve had these moderate temperatures and a little bit of precipitation,” said Jim Lane, southern region biologist with Uu-a-thluk. “Henderson River is really low, but it’s fairly cool.”

On July 17 Vancouver Island saw more rain, a development Boyd expects will further help drought concerns.

“We’ve got another provincial-wide storm system that’s moving in. It’s hitting the north coast and Haida Gwaii first, and it’s going to be impacting the entire island later this evening [July 16] and tomorrow morning,” he said. “There is a possibility that the drought code could drop even lower next week.”

Vancouver Island’s danger rating for forest fires has also dropped. As of June 16 the BC Wildfire Service cited a danger rating of “low” for most of the west side of Vancouver Island, with the area south of Nitinaht Lake categorized as “moderate”.