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Cowichan Bay leads the Valley in water conservation

Cowichan Water Conservation Challenge began in 2013
Water Woman leads the charge towards water conservation at the kick off to World Water Day in Duncan in 2014. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen file)

The residents of Cowichan Bay have reduced their annual residential water use by an astounding 22.8 per cent since 2013.

The community, once again, has proven to be a master of water conservation in the Cowichan Valley, with each of its residents using an average of 232 litres of water per day in 2018 compared to 307 litres a day in 2013, according to the latest data from the Cowichan Water Conservation Challenge.

The information was released in time for World Water Day 2019, which is being celebrated today.


The next best water supplier in the Valley for conservation in 2018 is the Cowichan Valley Regional District, which has reduced its consumption from 415 litres per person in 2013 to 376 litres in 2018, an average 6.9 per cent drop.

In 2014, in response to extreme summer droughts, a growing population, and concerns about water shortages and sustainability, the Cowichan Watershed Board issued a challenge to all local water suppliers to “meet or beat” Ladysmith’s domestic water use level at that time of 246 litres per person per day.


The Ladysmith target represented a more than 20 per cent improvement in one decade, and well below the Canadian average at that time.

It provided clear evidence that local residents could do better without impacting the quality of life in the Valley, according to a press release from the water board.

The seven largest water suppliers at the time took up the Challenge.

Due to difficulties comparing one water system to another, adjustments were made to the goal in year two and each water system was asked instead to aim for a 20 per cent reduction in per capita residential water use from its 2013 levels rather than a specific volume of water.

While one water provider, Cowichan Bay Waterworks District, did reach that goal, and other districts surpassed the 20 per cent reduction goal in some years, overall we have a long way to go, according to the release.

While the trend is improving, at approximately 8.6 per cent less residential water use per person per day on average than in 2013 that’s a long way from the 20 per cent goal. Cowichan Valley residents still use more water in its homes than the Canadian average of 251 Litres per person per day, and Canadians are among the highest water consumers in the world.


However, the Challenge revealed a great interest and willingness among residents to “fix a drip” and conserve water.

Approximately 2,000 people directly engaged in a water conservation activity with the watershed board during this time, such as testing a toilet or garden hose for leaks or pledging to let their lawns go dormant in summer, saving an estimated 10 million litres of water.

Ladysmith reduced its water consumption by an average 5.9 per cent since 2013.

But at 233 litres of water per person in 2018 compared to 231 in 2013, Ladysmith has significantly increased its water use from some previous years of the Challenge, including 2017 when it used 189 litres of water per person.

North Cowichan reduced its water consumption by an average 5.7 per cent since 2013. Like Ladysmith, usage varied significantly year to year, with residents using 318 litres per person in 2018 compared to 296 in 2013, and just 245 litres per person in 2016, its best year since the Challenge began in 2014.

Mill Bay has reduced its water consumption by 1.3 per cent since 2013. It was also up and down, with residents using 252 litres per person in 2018 compared to 249 litres in 2013.

Data was not received for 2018 from the City of Duncan and the Town of Lake Cowichan.

Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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