Water levels hitting end-of-summer lows in Cowichan

Officials in the Cowichan Valley continue to carefully monitor the flow of the region’s watercourses, especially the Cowichan River, according to Jon Lefebure, chair of the of the Cowichan Valley Regional District and member of the Cowichan Watershed Board.

Desperately dry conditions forced the provincial River Forecast Centre to issue low streamflow advisories on Monday for the Koksilah, Chemainus and Cowichan Rivers.

Lefebure said Tuesday that this Centre’s advisory includes a lot of useful information for the watershed board about the historical flow levels but the problem itself is already well-known in the Valley.

"We have been working on managing the Cowichan River’s flow for many years and we’ve been working on the issue this year since early March," he said.

They started a month earlier than usual, limiting the amount of water coming out of Cowichan Lake into the Cowichan River through the weir, so some could be saved for what is normally the dry season.

"We have to be aware we might not have significant rainfall till September. Last year it took until October before that arrived."

Lefebure said that the problem is compounded by the lack of snowpack, meaning there’s no melt to contribute its water during the summer. This leaves the water that’s stored in Cowichan Lake crucially important.

"We have to manage a long dry season with the water that’s behind the weir," he said. "We’re trying to save it because we have to be ready for the worst case scenario. That’s the kind of planning we have to do."

Lefebure said that everyone involved in watching the water situation realizes there are two sides to starting water storage early in Cowichan Lake.

There can be adverse effects on fish no matter when changes to river flow are made, he said.

"What we do hurts and we just have to balance out what is best for each season."