CVRD water function small, but vital investment by all of us
The board at the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society (CLRSS) decided that a response to a recent letter by Area I Director Klaus Kuhn is necessary to outline our reasons for supporting the Drinking Water and Watershed Protection services function at the CVRD.
Members of the CLRSS have invested over 2,000 volunteer hours every year for the last eight years protecting and preserving the Valley’s watershed. Our core activities include riparian area restoration, rescuing stranded salmon fry, erecting signs on fish bearing streams, cleaning up the river, monitoring water quality and providing public education.
Mr. Kuhn states that Area I will “receive no direct benefit” from a water services function. He claims, “our aquifers are in very good shape”. We feel this is a narrow way to view the challenges of the future. It is better to be proactive and not wait until there is serious harm, and to remember that Area I is just one of 13 areas and municipalities with 17 watersheds and 58 aquifers in the regional district.
Climate change projections for our area indicate an ongoing trend of rising temperatures and less summer rain. The CVRD’s latest report states that global climate models project an increase in annual average temperature of almost 3 C in the region by 2050. In the years ahead, we will experience many more days above 25 C, in which the evaporative losses in Cowichan Lake can equal the river flow. Climate change impacts in the Valley are accelerating and maintaining the status quo isn’t good enough. This new water service function at the CVRD can help us adapt to our changing climate and build water security resilience in the Valley.
Mr. Kuhn is concerned about supporting NGOs. He asks, “Is there going to be a benefit to the CVRD from these organizations?” We feel this statement shows a lack of respect for the volunteers and community members who are striving to make our community a better place to live, work and play. Community members are lucky to live where we have a large number of citizen-based organizations working together with First Nations and all levels of government to protect our watersheds and communities.
Two of our board members participated in the recently completed Cowichan Water Use Plan process, along with 18 other stakeholders from all over the Valley. They spent several days last winter studying climate change projections and weighing various alternative designs towards protecting our watershed ecosystems and securing our drinking water for future generations. Some of our members provided input to the technical working group for the process, along with First Nations, all levels of government, local NGOs and lakefront property owners. A consensus rooted in excellent science was reached, recommending increasing the storage capacity of Cowichan Lake by 30 cm as soon as possible and to 70 cm if needed in the future. This group of Valley citizens produced a very carefully considered plan to secure our water and showed how working together at a district level can produce a way forward.
We see that the most important aspect of the Water Services Function allows the CVRD to receive significant financial support from senior levels of government to enhance our water security, which includes increasing summer water storage in Cowichan Lake up to 30 centimetres, providing 30 additional days of healthy river flow even without a drop of summer rain. While we are still several years away from a new weir, with many steps to come, it is vital for us to show some courage and faith in our community leaders to work with all stakeholders to protect our district’s water resources.
The average homeowner in our community will be charged about $20 per year on their property tax to support this function. This money can leverage thousands of hours of volunteer labour and millions of additional dollars from senior levels of government. We think it is a good plan for us today, and an amazing deal for our children and grandchildren tomorrow.
Our lovely place on the globe can protect us from the worst effects of climate change that we are witnessing elsewhere. Our deep, clear lake can provide a secure source of water for our watershed for the future. Sixty-eight years ago, a weir was built to address the summer water quantity problems of that era, and we are still profiting from that good work, and now it is our generation’s turn to support making an impactful investment in the future.
We think we must take a long-term perspective to adapt to climate change, but we must act quickly. We are more than ready to vote YES to making a small yearly investment to secure the future health of all watersheds throughout the district.
On Oct. 20, please vote YES in favour of CVRD Bylaw No. 4202 – Drinking Water and Water Protection Services Establishment Bylaw 2018.
Ken Traynor, president
Cowichan Lake & River Stewardship Society