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Low water levels not a factor for Whistler

Reservoirs, local water levels normal as province calls for conservation

The lack of rain and high temperatures around the province have prompted the B.C. government to take the unusual step of asking people around the province to conserve water.

Last week Environment Minister Barry Penner urged all British Columbians to protect "vulnerable water supplies" to ensure communities have enough water to last through the summer.

The most affected areas are in the Kootenay region, as well as some waterways in the Thompson, Peace, and Coastal regions. Both the Fraser River at Hope and Thompson River at Spences Bridge are below a 20-year low.

While snow accumulation was average or above average in many areas last winter, record high temperatures in May and below normal rainfall in June and July are contributing to the lower water levels. In some areas of the province rainfall has been half of what would be expected in a normal summer.

B.C. coastal rivers, which are mainly glacier fed, have variable water levels according to the Ministry of the Environment. The Elaho, Squamish, Cheakamus and Stave have dropped to record lows, while the Skeena is near its 20 year low. The low levels are expected to continue through the month of August.

But despite the reported lows, it’s business as usual for Whistler rafting companies. According to Mike Sadam, owner and operator of Wedge Rafting, things appear to be more or less normal.

"I’d say we’re seeing a fairly normal summer," he said. "We’re mid-August now and the water levels are totally normal. We’re on the Green River still, and people are having a lot of fun, we’re getting people out there every day.

"On the Cheakamus River we have a guaranteed minimum flow from the (Daisy Lake) dam, which is a good water level for us, and the Elaho is at a perfect water level for this time of the year. We are not seeing anything unusual, we had a good snowpack this year that was better than any of the past three years.

"I can see how it might be an issue in some places that don’t have the big mountains and glaciers, but we don’t rely on rain here, we rely on sun and we’ve been getting plenty of it."

Municipal water reservoirs are also at normal levels for this time of year, according to Brian Barnett, general manager of engineering and public works for the RMOW.

"Our situation is good, we have no problems at this time in terms of water supply and reservoir level," he said. "When it’s warm and we’ve had a good winter of snow collection, that’s a good situation for us.

"Summers are always something we pay close attention to in terms of our water utility. It’s not uncommon to have difficulties maintaining water supplies this late in the season, but we’ve done a little extra work balancing water flows and supply in our distribution system."

But while Whistler’s water levels are in good shape Barnett emphasizes that it’s important for Whistler locals to follow the municipal water restriction schedules that are phased in every summer.

Under the restrictions people in odd numbered addresses are allowed to water their lawns on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the evening. For houses with even numbers the restriction is on Thursdays and Sundays.