Geography Field Trip: Sooke Water Reservoir

Sooke Dam

Every year the Geography department hosts a grown-up field trip for the hydrology nerds to go visit our city’s drinking water reservoir. Forty five minutes in an old school bus on a dirt road off the highway lies the Sooke reservoir. This is the sole drinking water resource for the Capital Regional district and is completely off limits to the public. That’s why all the hydrology nerds get stoked about getting the opportunity to check it out.

map of Victoria and Sooke Lake

After getting through security, we met up with our tour guide Fraser Hall, who is the lead engineer for the reservoir. Despite the absolutely torrential downpour he talked enthusiastically about the infrastructure that ensures all 360,000 people in the CRD get clean drinking water. And it’s actually pretty cool.

This spillway, for example, is shaped like this to reduce turbulence, simulating a waterfall type of flow. The best part though, is the name. This design is specifically called the “OG crest.” Yes, this is the “original gangster” crest. Another feat of engineering lies in the design of the reservoir itself. With a deeper portion at the far end of the reservoir this allows for water to settle much of its deposits before making its way to the intake valves on the opposite end.


It’s crazy to think that this lake nestled up in the mountains holds the water that comes out of every tap in all the houses south of the Malahat. Fraser told us that in a year the reservoir will drop 4 metres from total regional use. That may seem like a lot, but to put that into perspective, recently there were two storms that replenished that much rainfall in less than 48 hours.

So is this massive lake the end to all our worries as water dependent people? Not really. Fraser said that we have enough water in the reservoir to last through one drought season, but anything more would have serious consequences. As our population is set to increase significantly in the next 10-20 years, strain on this resource is probably not going to get any easier.

If you’re interested in taking the Sooke reservoir tour you should sign up for the hydrology class (Geog 370), or the water management course (Geog 371), both of which I personally enjoyed a great deal (I’m not a biased water nerd at all, I promise).

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