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Low snow pack leads to fears of another drought next summer in Cowichan

Warm weather leaving little mountain snow so far this season
The warm weather so far this winter season is leaving little snow in the mountains, which is raising fears of another drought that could see pumps used again this summer to pump water from Cowichan Lake into Cowichan River at the Catalyst weir (pictured) to sustain water levels in the river. (Citizen file photo)

The recent warm weather has mostly spared the region from the harshness of winter so far this season, but concerns are already being raised as to what implications that could have on water levels at Cowichan Lake and Cowichan River this summer.

Brian Houle, Catalyst Crofton’s environment manager, said in his monthly update that the lake is now overfull as expected at this time of year, but the snow pack in the surrounding mountains that supply water to the river and lake in the warmer and drier months is markedly lower than previous years at this time.

“The warmer weather is impacting the snow pack as rainfall continues to fall in the region which is supporting the higher lake level, but it’s too warm for snow to accumulate in the mountains,” Houle said.

“I will continue to update (the media and stakeholders) on about a once-a-month basis as we approach the 2024 dry season.”


Houle also noted in his update that 2023 was a very difficult year for the Cowichan watershed with its record-dry conditions and 36 days of pumping water from the lake to the river.

“It is a good thing to put 2023 into the history books,” he said.

The severe drought that struck the region last summer lowered water levels in the Cowichan River dramatically, so Catalyst used 20 pumps for more than a month in September and October to pump water over Catalyst’s weir at Cowichan Lake to sustain water levels in the river with a base flow of 4.5 cubic metres per second.

A winter with below average snowpack followed by a drought beginning in mid-May were the root cause of last year’s dry conditions and, with the snow pack already significantly low so far this season, there are fears of yet another significant drought in 2024.

The Cowichan basin has experienced 14 droughts since 1998.

Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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