Streamflow levels lower than normal, report says

Fast snowmelts have meant that streamflows are at record lows in some parts of the province, a government report shows. (BC River Forecast Centre image)

Conditions have become drier in the Burns Lake region since early June, with streamflows falling even lower than normal, a recent government reports shows.

Warm temperatures have increased the snowmelt across the province to a faster speed than normal and snowpack reduction has happened at a rate of one to three weeks ahead of normal for most areas, according to the Snow Survey and Water Supply Bulletin released on June 21.

“Typically, two-thirds of the accumulated seasonal snowpack in BC has melted by June 15,” the report said.

Current snowpack measurements across B.C. resemble conditions noted in 2015 and 2016.

The previous report from June 7 showed snowmelt was already diminishing faster than normal.

READ MORE: Below normal snowpack level persists

There was no data for June 15 for the snow basin index for the Upper Fraser West basin, which includes Burns Lake, Fort St. James and Vanderhoof. But using the June 7 measurements as a guide, the levels would be similar to those noted for the neighbouring basins of Upper Fraser East, Nechako and Skeena-Nass.

For June 15, those three basins were at 44, 0 and 16 per cent of normal, respectively.

Upper Fraser East includes Prince George and the surroundings areas. Nechako comprises the area southwest of Burns Lake. Skeena-Nass takes in Houston, Smithers and Terrace.

Current streamflow levels are similar to those normally seen later in the summer.

“With the combination of low seasonal snowpack, dry spring weather, and early melt, current streamflow conditions in these areas is similar to conditions that are experienced late-July or early-August, rather than mid-June. In some areas streamflow is approaching or exceeding record lows for this time of year.”

In terms of temperature, the report mentions that Environment and Climate Change Canada calls for above normal summer temperatures across the province until September.

Drought conditions have worsened since the previous report on June 7, according to the B.C. Drought Information Portal.

Most of the province is under “very dry” conditions, including Bulkley Lakes in which Burns Lake and Houston are located. The northeast portion of Fort Nelson – along the borders of Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Yukon – classified as “extremely dry.”


Blair McBride
Multimedia reporter
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