Water levels way down
Water levels are “significantly below normal levels” for this time of year, the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority is warning.
As a result, the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority's low-water response team has declared a Level 1 low water advisory. A Level 3 advisory is the most severe.
The last time water levels were this low in the Stratford area was in 1999 and 2000, said Mark Shifflett senior water resources engineer.
“The levels are similar to what we normally expect in late May,” he said.
Typically, melting snow feeds into rivers and streams creating high water flows in late winter and early spring, but the warm winter didn't give the limited amount of snow that did fall time to accumulate.
Anyone planting trees or other vegetation this spring should pay more attention to watering them, Shifflett said.
There isn't a water supply issue now, but water levels traditionally drop as the summer progresses and demand for water increases. If that happens, water levels could sink well below normal.
“That's when we start being concerned about groundwater supplies,” Shifflett said, which would impact golf courses, farmers who use irrigation and private wells.
Low water levels are determined by looking at precipitation levels over the past three months and stream flows over the past month, among other indicators.
Precipitation from January to March was far below normal and stream flows are also low for this time of year.
There isn't much rain in the short-term forecast either with just 40% chance of rain five days from now.
“Victoria Lake is already full so that's good,” Shifflett said. “But if you get low flows, water temperatures get higher which affects the (water) quality.”
Wildwood Lake is normally used to feed streams in the summer.
“The reservoir is going to be a very valuable resource for the Thames,” Shifflett said. “If it is dry, there might be a tendency to lower the reservoir earlier.”
Shifflett doesn't foresee an impact on recreation.
The low water levels will impact fish, turtles and other aquatic life used to high flows at this time of year, he said.