Okanagan Lake starts rising, delayed snowpack could be beneficial to have water peak during summer

Lake levels slowly rising

Casey Richardson

While Okanagan Lake still sits low, Penticton’s dam manager said it is in a better place than before, as he continues his focus on capturing as much water as possible.

The lake remains a little under 70 centimetres, or over two feet, below the full pool target level.

"Right now, we're probably more concerned with filling the lake to a proper degree than we would be for flooding concerns on the lake. So we probably won't be raising our outflows through the dam to the degree we thought we would, say even several weeks ago," Shaun Reimer, the Okanagan section head and Penticton dam manager said.

In their forecast, Reimer expects about 85 centimeters of water coming into Okanagan Lake between now and the end of July.

"If that forecast comes into being or, potentially, we could get less than that forecast, then we're gonna have a struggle getting the lake up to the full pool target," he said.

"If we have though, a rainy or just a normal-ish kind of summer, our hopes are that even if we don't get to the level we'd like to, that by fall we can still recover."

Last year, the lake level was lowered in anticipation of the high snow pack levels combined with spring rain. But when the Okanagan saw an incredibly dry spring and summer, the low levels brought on a drought.

Reimer said the levels are in a better position this year compared to last.

As of May 1, the average snowpack in the Okanagan is 83 per cent of normal, up from 74 per cent last month.

B.C.'s River Forecast Centre published its latest Snow Survey and Water Supply Bulletin on Tuesday, which states that cool weather in April has delayed snow melt.

"That late snowpack sticking around at the higher elevations might be a good thing. So it's sticking around and getting to give us the ability to continue to fill the lake and a little bit later on into the summer," Reimer said.

"When you want that water later in the summer for fish, for irrigators, for recreation, for all the various interests, just for that general water supply purpose. It's harder to keep it in the lake when it peaks earlier. But if it sticks around, in the upper levels, that's probably beneficial for all those interests."

The case this spring has been a growing concern for flooding with the tributaries. As snowpack is only one indicator of potential flooding, a close eye will be kept on upcoming forecasts and weather events.

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