Volunteers work to improve the watershed. (Barry Hetschko photo)

Volunteers work to improve the watershed. (Barry Hetschko photo)

Groups band together in support vote on Drinking Water and Watershed Protection

10 local groups urge a ‘yes’ vote

Guest column

The Cowichan region has a wonderful legacy of stewardship and volunteerism. Several water-focused stewardship groups from the north, central and south parts of our community have met and formed a coalition to share information and concerns.

Collectively our groups give many thousands of volunteer hours each year supporting, protecting and enhancing our water resources and water-dependent ecosystems. Each group has unique and valuable knowledge of their specific watersheds and will continue to provide essential information and guidance to the CVRD about the needs and challenges faced daily in their home watershed. We are involved with habitat restoration, watershed protection, data collection, water sampling, monitoring wildlife inventories, salmon fry salvage operations, public education and many other activities. However, without a regional agency working across multiple jurisdictions (First Nations, federal, provincial, and municipal) there is a danger that the continuity of connected water systems will be broken.

The municipal election ballot on Oct. 20 will contain an important referendum question asking citizens to support the creation of a Drinking Water and Watershed Protection Service at the CVRD. This service is designed to enhance the water security of our communities. It will enable the monitoring and protection of all of our critically important watersheds from Shawnigan to Yellowpoint. This service will also provide resources for our various organizations to continue their work preserving and protecting our water for future generations to enjoy as we do today.

A highly respected group of research scientists at the University of Victoria has done some very detailed climate change projections specifically for our area. These projections show that we are facing serious challenges in the future around our water. Our summer rainfall and winter snow pack will continue to decrease while droughts and summer temperatures will increase significantly. Many aquifers in our region are declining. We must take action quickly to monitor and protect our water and water-dependent ecosystems for the future.

One important feature of this water protection function is to enable the CVRD to receive funding from senior levels of government for the execution of water services for all our watersheds. Homeowners in the CVRD will be charged $3.79 per $100,000 of assessed value on their annual property taxes. That works out to $18.95 per year for a $500,000 home. We think this will return great value to all of our residents in the form of enhanced water security, protected ecosystems and informed development decisions in the future.

Moving forward in an organized, collaborative and integrated manner is essential to our unified goal of developing and implementing sustainable water use and land management decisions. Our unified message is simple. Our groups support the Drinking Water and Watershed Protection Service. We represent diverse groups from every corner of our region and we all agree it is vitally important to create this service. Please take the time to learn the facts and get out to vote on Oct. 20.

Signed:

Shawnigan Basin Society

Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society

One Cowichan

Cowichan Stewardship Roundtable

Cowichan Valley Naturalists

Cowichan Watershed Board

Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society

Yellowpoint Ecological Society

Green Blue

Quamichan Watershed Stewardship Society