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Severe water shortage at B.C. ski resort forces staff to ask visitors to bring their own

B.C.'s Mount Washington ski area in a 2018 photograph. The Vancouver Island resort is opening Friday with water conservation measures in place due to a lack of potable drinking water caused by drought. (CBC - image credit)
B.C.'s Mount Washington ski area in a 2018 photograph. The Vancouver Island resort is opening Friday with water conservation measures in place due to a lack of potable drinking water caused by drought. (CBC - image credit)

Drought conditions on Vancouver Island are now impacting winter activities at a popular ski destination.

Mount Washington Alpine Resort, located about a 30-minute drive from the Comox Valley, is set to open Friday, Dec. 9, and a lack of snow on the hill and water in the local reservoirs mean visitors will have limited terrain to play on and will have to bring their own drinking water.

The resort issued a statement saying Vancouver Island is experiencing the worst drought levels in 15 years and that potable water supply on the mountain is at record lows.

"As our winter season and the holidays approach, there are concerns about potential water shortages," reads the statement in part.

According to the province, Vancouver Island is currently at drought level three on a scale that ranks level five as the worst. At level three, serious ecosystem or socio-economic impacts are possible, and the government recommends curtailing all unauthorized water use.

Resort officials are asking people to take measures to conserve, such as bringing their own drinking water and refraining from filling hot tubs or pools with local water.

The statement says water refill stations on the mountain will be shut off and porta-potties provided to reduce toilet flushing. Diners will be given disposable plates and cutlery to avoid running dishwashers.

The resort says it is also preparing for the possibility of a boil water advisory.

The water woes are not preventing the mountain from opening Friday but only limited beginner terrain will be available to play on because of a lack of snow.

According to the resort, the snowpack in the upper watershed is less than 25 per cent of what is considered normal at this time of year and, because the resort is at the top of the watershed, it is quickly affected by water shortages.

Environment Canada is forecasting a mix of snow and rain for the Comox Valley Friday and Saturday, which is likely to bring more snow to the mountain resort.