Challenge issued as water lows loom in Cowichan

The Cowichan Watershed Board is challenging everyone in the Cowichan Valley to reduce their water consumption as the area stares down water levels that are already at lows usually seen in late summer.

"We’re starting what looks like late August conditions at the lake [Cowichan Lake] so this is pretty worrying," Watershed Board member Rodger Hunter told the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s regional services committee late last month.

He was there, along with the Watershed Board’s David Slade, to introduce CVRD directors to the Cowichan Water Conservation Challenge.

The challenge, Slade said, is to meet or beat Ladysmith’s conservations efforts, which have seen a successful reduction is use to 246 litres per person per day. This represents a 25 per cent reduction in consumption, a number that is even more impressive when a population increase of 20 per cent is taken into account.

To put the achievement into perspective, Slade compared it to other areas of the Valley. In Dogwood Ridge, for example, people are using 294 litres per day, in Douglas Hill that number jumps to 345 litres per day, and in Cherry Point usage skyrockets to 423 litres per person, per day.

"Not really that close to Ladysmith," Slade said.

Ladysmith’s 246 litres per day compares favourably with the Canadian average usage which is 325 litres per person per day. But the Canadian average is not very

impressive next to other nations such as Germany, which uses as little as 120 litres per person per day. The United Nations, Slade pointed out, says that people require 50 litres per day.

"Why conserve?" Slade asked. "Because we can. Because other people can do it better than we’re doing it now and because we don’t know what’s coming," he said, referring to the effects of climate change, which he said are here, and getting worse.

Twice in the last 10 years salmon had to be trucked up the river to spawn, he said. There’s also an indisputable link between the river and its flows and the major aquifer feeding many Cowichan homes. Reasons to conserve also include helping Cowichan achieve food security, which will take water, Slade said, and saving money.

Methods to help reduce consumption include fixing leaks, which he termed the "low hanging fruit", and metering. This allows areas to provide incentives to people who conserve and penalize people who don’t with higher rates.

Slade said convincing people to conserve should be an easy sell.

A 2011 survey spoke to 523 Cowichan households about water. Responses showed that while 70 per cent people didn’t know where their water came from, 92 per cent think it is important to conserve.

"The public is already on-side with this idea," Slade said.

The challenge kickoff will be in Duncan City Square in July.

"If Ladysmith can get by on 246 then why can’t we all do that and why can’t we do it better?" he challenged. "Go for the glory. Maybe blow Ladysmith out of the water."

Water restrictions Stage 2 water restrictions are now in effect for District of North Cowichan, Chemainus, Crofton, South End and City of Duncan water systems.

This means residents can water twice per week for a maximum of three hours each day. Even number addresses should water Wednesdays and Saturdays from 6-9 a.m. or 7-10 p.m. Odd number addresses should water between those same hours on Thursdays and Sundays.

Hand watering of trees, shrubs and gardens is allowed any day of the week. In announcing the restrictions, the municipalities stated they are due to concerns about the low snow pack, rainfall and projected dry summer. For further information contact the North Cowichan engineering department at 250-746-3128 or City of Duncan at 250-746-6126.