Okanagan Lake well below full pool as spring runoff winds down | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Okanagan Lake well below full pool as spring runoff winds down

The north end of Okanagan Lake near Chelsea Estates is seen in this file photo. The water level in Okanagan Lake in 2021 is poised to be the lowest in several years.
June 15, 2021 - 7:00 AM

The man in charge of the dam on the Penticton river channel that helps control the water flow out of Okanagan Lake says there needs to be a lot more rain before there is an appreciable rise in the lake's level.

Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development public safety head Shaun Reimer says the weekend rain helped with the Okanagan Lake level, but there's still a ways to go to make up for months of dry weather.

“Storms like (Sunday) night can raise the lake level by a centimetre, so the rain does make a difference," Reimer says. "Trouble is, it’s been so dry, a lot of that rainfall ended up being absorbed into the ground, and never made it to the lake.”

Okanagan Lake level is presently at 342.06 metres above sea level, around 40 centimetres below full pool. The spring freshet has peaked and although there is still some high elevation snow to come down and creeks are still flowing moderately, he doesn’t expect the freshet to last much longer.

Reimer says 2019 was the last low water year on the lake, and that year it was 10 cm higher than it is this year.

“That year, we had what Environment Canada called normal July precipitation, but everyone thought at the time it was a wet month. That normal July precipitation would really help up maintain the lake level. Cloudy days in the summer also reduce evaporation, which can be a considerable source of water loss,” he says.

For now, Reimer says he’s trying to reduce outflow of the lake as much as possible, and has shaved one or two cubic metres per second off the total outflow when and if he can.

“We’re really trying to minimize our flows. One or two cubic metres per second can make a big difference to fish habitat and for people using water downstream, but it’s not going to make an appreciable difference in lake levels,” he says.

Should the present dry weather conditions continue into summer, Reimer says boaters will likely experience docking issues in certain areas due to low water, and channel floaters in Penticton will likely find it’s going to be a slow and lazy ride down the channel this summer.

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