Rain has bought 8-9 days more Cowichan River flow

Just because we’ve had a bit of rain doesn’t mean the drought is over and we can stop worrying about the water crisis in the Cowichan River.

That was the message Kate Miller, manager of environmental initiatives planning and development for the Cowichan Valley Regional District, was giving this week as the CVRD announced a new website they’ve created that gives the public information on the current water shortage.

"What we really want folks to know is that when they look out the window it looks like the rainy season has come [but] we’re still in really serious drought situation here," said Miller. "It’s easier to communicate if you’ve got lots of brown grass."

But that is not our environment and the drought shows in different ways here, she said.

And while the recent rainfall has made a big difference in fire safety, reducing the fire risks in the Cowichan Valley, it has only bought the Cowichan River eight or nine more days at the current significantly reduced flow rate before the water storage in Cowichan Lake runs out.

Water is stored in Cowichan Lake by a weir that can control flows in the summer when things get dry, ensuring enough water for fish survival, waste dilution and Catalyst mill in Crofton.

This summer, flows have already been reduced below the recommended optimum levels to try to conserve the supply, but if there isn’t significant rainfall in the next few weeks salmon stocks are threatened and Catalyst mill may have to shut down temporarily.

"We’re most definitely not out of the drought situation quite yet," said Miller.

Conditions are changing fast, she said, and the website is a way that people can keep up with the day-to-day shifts.

There is information on the website about three key indicators: water supply in Cowichan Lake, water temperatures and water quality.

While much of the data is presented in a simple format that will be easy to understand for the casual viewer who wants to take a glance and move on, there is also the ability for those who want to dig a bit deeper to drill down on the issue, Miller said.

To take a look, go to flowdown.ca