Goat Staff with files from BC Hydro
Despite lower reservoir inflows in spring and early summer 2019, BC Hydro is forecasting normal water levels at most of its reservoirs including Kinbasket across the fall and winter.
BC Hydro said warm, dry weather and a below average snowpack last spring meant low inflows and some reservoirs did not refill to normal levels in late spring. But rain and water inflows over the summer and early fall have now filled most reservoirs to typical operating levels.
BC Hydro depends on its two largest reservoirs – Williston in the Peace region and Kinbasket in the Columbia – to ensure a reliable supply of low-cost energy to meet the province’s electricity needs during the winter months when demand is highest.
The Kinbasket Reservoir is expected to operate at near average seasonal levels during the fall and winter, and Williston Reservoir is expected to be at levels similar to, or greater, than those observed across last winter and early spring.
The size of a reservoir determines how it responds to weather changes. For example, fall and winter storms can quickly refill BC Hydro’s smaller reservoirs on Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland. For these systems, BC Hydro carefully monitors winter storms to ensure it provides advance notice of any increased risk of flooding for downstream areas.
A BC Hydro report from April 2019 called “Generational challenge: How B.C.’s generation system is adapting to extreme weather and unforeseen events” looked at the impact the unusual dry summer weather in 2018 and the Enbridge pipeline explosion in fall 2018 had on its system.
BC Hydro says it does not expect this winter to be as challenging as last winter, but weather patterns can shift and reservoir situations change. BC Hydro says it is working to improve its inflow forecasting, expand hydroclimate monitoring technology and invest in capital projects such as spillway gate replacements.