Editorial: Defining the Koksilah water problem is the first step

We say, it’s about time.

In the Cowichan Valley, when we talk about water worries, the lion’s share of the attention goes to the Cowichan River.

The Cowichan is a mighty waterway to be sure, and the watershed surrounding and feeding it are the lifeblood of the Cowichan Valley. From it, we get our drinking water, our swimming holes, our salmon and much more.

But there are other, often overlooked yet vital water bodies in the Cowichan Valley. One such is the Koksilah River and its watershed.

Last summer it shouldered its way into the spotlight with the Cowichan River during the drought that not only had pumps moving water over the weir at Cowichan Lake into the Cowichan River for the first time, but had the province dictating serious water conservation for Koksilah water users, as that river couldn’t keep up with the water licences drawing from it.

Some farming and industrial uses of Koksilah water were halted altogether, while everyone in the vicinity was asked to conserve as much as they could.

Now, the province is acting to try to get a better idea of just what’s going on in the Koksilah watershed, both with its surface and underground water. To this end they are drilling test wells in the area for monitoring purposes.

We say, it’s about time. While things went to the extreme this summer, it was hardly the first time the Koksilah has been hard pressed. How can we plan for conservation in the future if we don’t have a clear picture of what’s going on in the present? From what we understand, it’s not even clear what the relationship between the surface (river) and groundwater (aquifers) is. And from what is known, the province acknowledges that more is being taken out of the Koksilah system, both on the surface and underground, than the system can sustain. That’s very worrying news, as it’s most likely that demand will only grow, and 2019 certainly wasn’t the last year we can expect a drought.

So we approve of step one: defining the problem. Step two, fixing it, will be the really tricky part.

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