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B.C.'s average snowpack for April lowest in more than 50 years


B.C.'s average snowpack is the lowest it's been in more than 50 years, the latest snow conditions and water supply bulletin released Wednesday says.

Jonathan Boyd, a hydrologist with the River Forecast Centre, said the province's snowpack measured at 63 per cent of normal, as of April 1. This time last year, the provincial average was 88 per cent.

According to the River Forecast Centre's report, the 2024 snowpack measurement marks the lowest since 1970, at least. Data before that, however, is incomplete.

Boyd explained that, by April 1, 95 per cent of the province's seasonal snowpack has typically accumulated.

"It is possible for snowpack to continue to climb into May if it is a cold and wet spring," he said, adding the province was under El Nino conditions in the fall and winter, which usually leads to warmer-than-usual weather.

Boyd said the low snowpack means the flood risk from snow melt is low, especially along larger river systems.

"A silver lining, of course, of this low snowpack is that areas that have been impacted consistently by flooding in recent years will have a lower risk this spring," he said. "It is still possible for adverse weather to cause flooding in the spring. Sudden and extreme rainfall, or persistent periods of heavy rainfall can still cause flooding."

Drought risk 'significantly higher'

In response to the latest bulletin, Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship Nathan Cullen warned the province could be facing drought this summer.

"The experts at the River Forecast Centre tell us these low levels and the impacts of year-over-year drought are creating significantly higher drought risk for this spring and summer," Cullen said in a statement.

"We know this is concerning news. Communities around B.C. experienced serious drought conditions last summer. It fuelled the worst wildfire season ever, harmed fish and wildlife, and affected farmers, ranchers, First Nations and industry."

But Boyd said the causes of drought "are multifaceted," making the conditions hard to predict with certainty.

"While snowpack can play an important role in areas, other factors such as the rate of snowmelt, the spring and summer temperature, short and long-term precipitation trends, they may all have equal or greater importance in the emergence of drought this summer," he said. 

Wednesday's update comes as Metro Vancouver's snowpack remains near half the historical average for the season, prompting the region to prepare for the drier months ahead. 

To manage water supply, usage restrictions begin starting May 1. As of that day Metro Vancouver residents will only be able to water their lawns a maximum of once per week. Top Stories

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