BC Hydro is reporting lower-than-normal water levels in Arrow Lakes Reservoir for this time of year, saying 2015 was the last time the reservoir reached these levels, and before that, not since 2001. The company says the current low levels are due to persistent dry conditions across the Columbia Basin.
Arrow Lakes Reservoir is currently at 424.19 metres (1,391.71 feet) and is expected to continue to draft to reach a minimum of 423.6 metres (1,389.9 feet) by January 27, 2023, says BC Hydro.
While these levels are within the normal operating range, according to BC Hydro, they are lower than normal for this time of year.
BC Hydro is required to take action under the Columbia River Treaty to meet the agreement’s terms surrounding water levels.
“Lower than average levels are associated with Columbia River Treaty obligations during ‘dry years.'” says BC Hydro staff in an email to the Mountaineer. “Under dry conditions more water is released from Canadian storage according to the terms of the Columbia River Treaty.”
“BC Hydro has already implemented measures including increasing generation on the Columbia system, which will help to maintain Arrow Lakes Reservoir levels,” explains BC Hydro. “After Arrow Lakes Reservoir reaches its expected minimum elevation at the end of January, we anticipate that the reservoir will start to refill and will reach approximately 426.7 metres (1,400 feet) by the end of February.”
BC Hydro says the normal minimum and maximum water licence levels for Arrow Lakes Reservoir are 420 metres (1,378 feet) and 440.1 metres (1,444 feet).
“This is the full range of Arrow Reservoir storage required under the Columbia River Treaty (7.1 million acre-feet). Levels up to 440.7 metres (1,446 feet) may be required for flood risk management in Canada and the United States.”
Hydro notes that the current forecast is subject to change based on a number of factors, including weather, load requirements, inflows, and other variables.