A water sustainability plan may be required for the users of the Koksilah watershed if drought continues. (File photo)

Government sends letter urging conservation to users in Koksilah watershed

Water sustainability plan may be required

While many in the Valley are focused on low water levels in Cowichan Lake and Cowichan River, the situation for residents who depend on water from the Koksilah watershed could be even worse.

Residents with wells and water licences in that watershed area have been requested by the province to reduce their water use for the remainder of the dry conditions being experienced in the region.

A letter from David Robinson, the province’s assistant water manager for the west coast region, dated June 5, said if the water levels in the watershed reach critically low levels, as forecasts are indicating, regulatory action may be triggered which may include restricting water use under the province’s Water Sustainability Act.

“While water remains available for use, we are concerned that the current situation will lead to critical low flows this summer, affecting fish habitat,” Robinson said.

RELATED STORY: VANCOUVER ISLAND WATER SYSTEM AT 50-YEAR LOW

Alison Nicholson, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s director for Cowichan Station/Sahtlam/Glenora which also covers the Koksilah watershed, said the water situation seems to get worse year by year.

She said that while in previous drought years, letters were sent to those with water licences to conserve water, this is the first year a letter was sent to almost all water users on the watershed.

“It’s a real worry and there’s huge community interest on this issue,” she said.

“We need to think seriously about our land-use practices. We have a huge farming community, private forest management lands and also a lot of residents dependent on the watershed. There are so many demands and only so much water to go around, so we have to ensure it goes to the highest priorities.”

Tom Rutherford, executive director of the Cowichan Watershed Board, said water levels in the Koksilah River go much lower than the levels in the Cowichan River, one of the main groundwater sources for the Valley, during times of drought.

“Cowichan River has a large lake at the head of it while the Koksilah River does not, so hydrology issues there have to be dealt with in different ways,” he said.

“Currently, the situation in the Koksilah watershed is even more dire than the one in Cowichan.”

RELATED STORY: WATER LEVELS IN COWICHAN LAKE NOW CONSIDERED “DIRE”

In the letter to the Koksilah water users, Robinson said that evaluating the efficiency of their water systems with respect to leaks, design and unnecessary irrigation will help ensure maximum benefit and minimal waste of their water use.

He said a monitoring and forecasting program is being led by provincial water staff with the goal of providing advanced warning of when river flows are approaching what is called the “critical environmental flow threshold”, and if the flows in the Koksilah River fall below the CEFT, action may have to be taken.

Rutherford said the Koksilah watershed is the first on the Island where provincial water staff, include biologists, have been actively monitoring flows on a regular basis for years to determine impacts on fish habitats.

He said a new tool that has been developed is water sustainability plans for watersheds that are vulnerable to drought conditions which would involve all residents, businesses and operations that depend on water from the watersheds.

“Everyone would get together to figure out how to manage the land better to sustain better water flows,” Rutherford said.

“Aspects of the plan would be enforceable if all parties agree. If such a management tool is developed for the Koksilah watershed, it would be the first one in B.C.”

The B.C. government already announced a Level 3 drought rating for all of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands last week.

RELATED STORY: COWICHAN LOOKING AT STAGE 2 WATER RESTRICTIONS AS LEVEL 3 DROUGHT DECLARED

The heightened alert means a call for voluntary water-use reductions for all surface and groundwater users, including farmers, local governments and residents alike.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

The CVRD is instituting Stage 2 water restrictions today, June 14.

Just Posted

Sarah Simpson column: Daddy Day field trip to City Hall a hit

“They want to go upstairs so I made them ask at the front desk.”

A day at the beach for DCS athletes

Corbett and McCormick win three matches in Silver Division

T.W. Paterson column: ‘One Hundred Dollar Man’ gave us provincial park

“…the more pious they look, by jingo, that’s the time to watch the blighters.”

Sangha goes to trial in Duncan in confinement case in January

The case of Kehar Garry Sangha is scheduled to go before the… Continue reading

VIDEO: First Nations, developer call for return and protection of sacred B.C. burial site

Dozens of First Nations leaders gather on grassy plateau to call on action by provincial government

Coming up in Cowichan: Spend Father’s Day fishing, or head to the BC Forest Discovery Centre

Deadline coming to register for class reunion The Cowichan Secondary Class of… Continue reading

Revamped B.C. Lions set to battle veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Lions’ first test of the season will be a big one

No business case for Trans Mountain expansion, says former environment minister

Cabinet is expected to announce its decision on the expansion of the Alberta-to-B.C. pipeline by Tuesday

LETTER: British Columbia’s forest industry crisis being made worse

Andrew Wilkinson warns of regulatory overload by John Horgan’s NDP

Convicted B.C. child abductor Randall Hopley back in custody 6 months after release

Correctional Services Canada could not provide further details due to privacy concerns

Bears have killed 17 people in B.C. since 1986

Number of bear complaints and bears killed rose sharply during same period

Three Albertans land ‘monster’ sturgeon in B.C.’s Fraser River

For angler who landed the exceptionally large sturgeon it was an ‘incredible dream come true’

Victoria man wins record-breaking Human Rights Tribunal case

After 14 years Chris Hughes won a case after facing discrimination for depression

Most Read