A month of sunny days over Nanaimo made March 2019 the sixth driest on record. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

A month of sunny days over Nanaimo made March 2019 the sixth driest on record. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Nanaimo watershed sees driest March in more than a decade

Rainfall far below average, says City of Nanaimo and Environment Canada

Anyone wondering if March seemed particularly dry had their suspicions confirmed by precipitation statistics recorded for the month.

According to Environment Canada, March 2019 was Nanaimo’s sixth driest since record-keeping started in 1892.

“This is the lowest March we’ve seen in about 12 years in our drinking watershed,” said Bill Sims, city director of engineering and public works. “Up in the watershed we get significantly more rain than we do in town. We almost had nothing in town.”

Nanaimo initiated water conservation measures Monday, limiting lawn and garden water to nights and early mornings between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Sims said in March, Nanaimo received just a fraction of normal precipitation.

“It was, like, five millimetres for the month, but we had 42 up in the watershed, which is something like 10 to 20 per cent of our normal March rainfall,” Sims said.

The snowpack is much less too, about 50 per cent of the normal average.

“We would typically see it continuing to build well into April, but it’s been declining now for about two or three weeks,” Sims said.

But, he said, the region has received near average precipitation overall throughout the wet season that starts in October.

The city started storing water in the Jump Lake Reservoir, now at about 87 per cent of full storage, in March to prepare for the dry season. Water is being saved up slowly to have full storage by June. Sims said water storage now starts earlier in response to the pattern of winter droughts in recent years.

“I think the major concern for us is how dry everything is right now,” Sims said. “People will start watering early and the local forests are very dry. The risk of wildfire is pretty significant.”

Armel Castellan, Environment Canada meteorologist, said March dry conditions spread across all of B.C. and much of the Yukon.

“We started off where February left off, which was cold,” Castellan said.

The high pressure ridge that helped maintain cold clear air over B.C. helped prevent precipitation from the Pacific Ocean from reaching the B.C. coast until the middle of March when it started to warm up.

“Just to give you an example, Nanaimo only saw 17.8 per cent of normal precipitation, so 20 millimetres versus the 113 they normally would see, so that ranks them sixth driest and that takes them back to 1892 records,” he said.

Castellan said this is the time of year when meteorologists become concerned about the snow pack in the mountains, which becomes a source of water that replenishes city water reservoirs through the summer, and people working in emergency management and atmospheric science are “doing a rain dance” in hopes there will be “June-uary” conditions in late spring, early summer that will provide steady rains.

“Because we know come July and August there’s going to be a honking big [high-pressure] ridge that’s going to probably give us almost no precipitation, maybe a few little dry cold fronts that spark some wildfires and then you’ve got yourself a problem again,” Castellan said.

Rain patterns are changing too. Castellan and Sims said the majority of the region’s annual precipitation is now compressed into fewer days of the year.

“One thing that has become more and more clear over the last decade is we’re expecting precipitation to go up in total, but we’re actually expecting it to be concentrated during our active storm months,” Castellan said. “The November, December, Januaries of the year are going to be wetter still … We used to see 12 days of the year amount to half the annual total of rain or precipitation and we’re expecting that to shift to only six.”

Rain is on the way over the coming week and into mid April, bringing a close to the March dry spell.

The five coldest Marches on record occurred in 1912, 1926, 1924, 1911 and 1965, according to Environment Canada records.



photos@nanaimobulletin.com
Like us on
Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Local marimba player Nicole Arendt will be prominently featured in the Vancouver Island Symphony’s upcoming ‘Debussy and Duets’ concert. (Chris Helman photo)
Nanaimo marimba player in the spotlight in Vancouver Island Symphony concert

Longtime VIS timpanist Nicole Arendt to play three pieces in ‘Debussy and Duets’ live stream

The site of the former Arrowview Hotel, on Second Avenue and Athol Street, as of Jan. 14, 2020. (Elena Rardon/Black Press)
Port Alberni pressures owner of demolished hotel, Lantzville’s Pottie, for final cleanup

Demolition finished in June 2020 but site still full of construction material

Letter writers weigh in on the City of Nanaimo adopting ‘doughnut’ economics as a guiding principle for decision-making.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: City of Nanaimo’s ‘doughnut’ has to be more than empty calories

Letter writers react to city council’s recent decision to adopt ‘doughnut’ economic model

Emergency crews were called to a crash involving a car and a minivan Saturday afternoon at the old Island Highway and Mary Ellen Drive. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
One person taken to hospital after crash in north Nanaimo

Car and minivan collided Saturday at the intersection of the old Island Highway and Mary Ellen Drive

Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization, a non-profit, seeks to raise $8,000 for a play structure to help children remain active during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization asking for help fundraising for play structure

Physical activities have been limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, says non-profit

Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization, a non-profit, seeks to raise $8,000 for a play structure to help children remain active during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization asking for help fundraising for play structure

Physical activities have been limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, says non-profit

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage addresses the attendees while Tom Olsen, Managing Director of the Canadian Energy Centre, looks on at a press conference at SAIT in Calgary on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Fulmes
‘Morally and ethically wrong:’ Court to hear challenge to Alberta coal policy removal

At least 9 interveners will seek to join a rancher’s request for a judicial review of Alberta’s decision

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

Cyclists pick up swag and cycling trail maps at city Bike to Work Week ‘celebration station’ a few years ago. (News Bulletin file photo)
City of Nanaimo’s active transportation plan will be about more than infrastructure

City working on goals to double walking trips and quintuple cycling and busing trips

Jackie Hildering, whale researcher with the Marine Education and Research Society, and Nanaimo Area Land Trust will present the Return of Giants, a webinar about the humpback whales’ return from the brink of extinction and how boaters can help protect them. (Jackie Hildering/MERS photo taken under Marine Mammal License MML-42)
‘Return of the Giants:’ B.C. getting a second chance to coexist with humpback whales

‘Marine Detective’ partners with Nanaimo stewardship group on webinar

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam at a press conference last year. (Canadian Press photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Better federal vaccine planning badly needed

Why hasn’t Parliament done more to protect seniors and care homes, asks letter writer

A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Kinsmen Participark in Beban Park will be closed next week so city workers can remove dangerous trees and invasive plant species. The work is the start of an improvement project that includes replacing signs and fitness stations in the spring. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo fitness park to close for removal of hazard trees and invasive plants

Tree cutting to start in Beban Park’s Kinsmen Participark as part of improvement project

Most Read