Snowpack Monitoring in the Region’s Watersheds

Snowpack Monitoring in the Region’s Watersheds

Snowpack Monitoring in the Region’s Watersheds

Metro Vancouver is currently testing new technologies to improve how it monitors snowpack in the watersheds that provide the region’s drinking water.

Melting snow in spring and summer replenishes drinking water reservoirs and makes up a significant portion of the region’s drinking water supply. Snowpack data is critical for water supply planning and for forecasting streamflow and flooding.

Metro Vancouver has been monitoring snowpack in its watersheds since 1936 and currently takes manual measurements of snow depth and snow water equivalent (the amount of water contained in snowpack) every one to two months throughout winter and spring. Four sub-alpine automated weather stations also transmit hourly snow and weather data.

In 2019, Metro Vancouver began testing two new technologies to refine snowpack and water supply estimates:

  • Aerial light detection and ranging (LiDAR) maps snow depth across large areas and compares it to ground surveys done without snow to determine current snow depth. This data is used to model snow water equivalent and estimate the snowpack’s total stored water.
  • Satellite imagery is being used to determine the extent of snow covered area in the watersheds, filling data gaps and helping to estimate water supply.

Both technologies are providing more precise information about the extent and depth of snow within the region’s watersheds, which will help Metro Vancouver as it manages the region’s drinking water supply.

Watch this video to learn more about snowpack monitoring.