Water solutions need wintertime action, too

It may seem odd to be worrying about water as we pray to see a little sunshine amidst the dark days of lowering clouds and wet weather.

But worried we should be. In spite of the soggy ground in our backyards, the outlook for the Cowichan watershed this summer is looking rather grim.

Unseasonably warm weather has left us with no snow pack to speak of. What little snow has fallen at higher elevations has simply melted away, unprotected by any kind of freezing temperatures.

There is nothing to hold the water in to save it for those predictably un-rainy days in July, August and September.

This bodes ill for summer flows in the Cowichan River – indeed for all of the Valley’s life-giving watercourses.

We all hope, of course, that last summer’s drought was an anomaly rather than a harbinger of things to come, but historical data indicates otherwise.

The summer river flows have been declining steadily for decades – it’s just taken several years of do-or-die crisis for us to even begin to look at doing something about it.

Last year proved that we are late to the party.

And while it is good news that we are now getting serious about raising the weir and investigating pumps to allow us to divert more water from Cowichan Lake into the river when the flows get dangerously low, that’s crisis management.

Clearly, what happens in the wintertime is equally important to the sustainability of a healthy river system, and should also be addressed.

Whether that’s looking at policy governing logging clear cuts, or work on climate change, it’s

past time to at least start talking about it in a meaningful way.

Last summer’s inadequate flows threatened salmon stocks and effluent dilution, not to mention the continued water supply to communities.

Portions of the river were closed to swimming and other recreational activities because of bacterial counts climbing to dangerous levels in the too-hot, too-shallow water.

Must we get to the point where the taps are actually shut off before we accept certain realities? We’re already up the creek, we need to grab some paddles.

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