Cowichan Valley watershed atlas in the works to guide the future

The Cowichan Valley Regional District is developing an atlas which will feature up-to-date information on the watersheds.

With 13 watersheds located in the more populated eastern side of the Cowichan Valley, work is ongoing to study and catalogue their current conditions as development continues at a fast pace in the region.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District is developing an atlas which will feature up-to-date information on the watersheds.

It’s the first phase of a project that will eventually see the development and implementation of comprehensive management plans for the watersheds.

Keith Lawrence, from the CVRD’s environmental services division, presented an outline of the draft watershed atlas to the council in North Cowichan on Oct. 19 as part of a process to gather feedback from local municipalities before a final version of the atlas is completed.

He said land use changes in local watersheds have been considerable in recent years.

Lawrence said these changes have affected water storage, stream flow and water demand.

“Climate impacts and population growth are expected to apply more stress on our watersheds in the years to come,” he said.

“This planning process will outline watershed areas that have the greatest need for management, and identify key gaps in our knowledge. The information will also support long-term initiatives in land use, infrastructure, liquid waste and watershed planning.”

Lawrence said he expects the completed version of the watershed atlas to be prepared sometime in 2017.

North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure pointed out that the municipality has a “great interest” in the future of the Chemainus River watershed, and anticipates that the atlas will be instrumental in the decisions that will have to be made for it.

“That watershed has suffered due to climate change, and there are no water-storage options like the ones available at the Cowichan River,” he said.