Among the most significant of Rio Tinto’s responsibilities are those associated with the management of the Nechako Reservoir. Rio Tinto relies on adequate water levels in the reservoir to support power generation at Kemano, upon which the Kitimat smelter depends.
In the 60 years that Rio Tinto has operated the reservoir, events such as rapid freezing in the Nechako River, rapid thaw of snow in the spring or winter, and unpredictable precipitation have led to instances of ice jams, greater than normal reservoir levels, and erosion. These naturally occurring weather events are reminders that the Nechako Watershed is a complex and dynamic system that requires careful monitoring and management.
Rio Tinto continually monitors reservoir levels and ongoing adjustments are made to water discharge from the reservoir in order to achieve a balance between environmental protection to ensuring there is energy to power the smelter. Recognizing that reservoir and public safety are of utmost importance, our system monitors take into account real-time weather and hydrological conditions, which helps our employees identify and manage potential risks and control flow in the Kemano River and discharge from Skins Lake Spillway into the Nechako Watershed.
Rio Tinto utilises seven meteorological stations spread throughout the Nechako region. The data is collected via satellite and is shared with various utility and governmental agencies. They allow reservoir managers to assess the water situation in real time and predict inflow from snow melt. This data provides critical information that allows Rio Tinto to make decisions about the management of water flows.