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Sooke Lake reservoir levels recover with snowmelt

Levels had dipped below the five-year minimum but recovered with rain and snowmelt over Christmas
Sooke Lake Reservoir as pictured on Dec. 7. (Courtesy of CRD)

Water levels on the Sooke Lake Reservoir have recovered thanks to recent rain and snowmelt, but are still below the five-year average.

Water levels are now at 83.5 per cent of capacity (77,383 million litres) as of Jan. 1, back above the five-year minimum level. That’s thanks to the snow, which takes longer to register in the water measurements, according to Andy Orr, Capital Regional District spokesperson.

“(Levels are lower) primarily due to less precipitation in the fall and early winter. This was exacerbated when recent precipitation fell as snow which does not immediately increase runoff levels,” Orr wrote in an email.

When the level was measured on Dec. 25, water levels were at 72.3 per cent of capacity, which was below the five-year minimum. While the numbers have bounced recently, they’re still below the five-year average (92,727 million litres measured Jan. 31), dipping below that level in late October.

It’s also a marked drop from water levels this time last year, when the reservoir was at the other end of the scale, having filled up nearly to capacity after the atmospheric river back in Nov. 2021.

Meanwhile, Goldstream Lake reservoir, the CRD’s reserve water storage system, which isn’t currently used to distribute water, is above the five-year average, with 9,828 million litres this year versus 8,412 million litres.

The Goldstream Lakes system is made up of Butchart Lake, Lubbe Lake, and Goldstream Lake.

With healthy water levels in Goldstream Lakes, back in November 2022 the CRD turned on the tap to help boost water levels down Goldstream River to help support the salmon run.

In a usual year, the CRD releases 3.0 Imperial million gallons/day (mgd) from the Goldstream Lakes system around this time of year.

With this summer’s drought, the Goldstream Hatchery asked the CRD to up the amount of water it lets flow through, with the CRD increasing the release rate to 8.0 mgd for 10 days, according to Orr.

Sooke Lake Reservoir opened in 1915 and was last expanded in 2002, when the dam was raised.

READ MORE: Future Greater Victoria droughts could be worse than any on record: watershed researcher

READ MORE: ‘Unprecedented’ weather causing Sooke Lake reservoir to fill up


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