We need to prepare now for a dry future

Conditions have been leading up to this for years, but somehow there was still an attitude in some circles that it would never come to pass.

Many in the Cowichan Valley still view climate change with suspicion or outright disbelief, drought as a small inconvenience, and the water conservation measures we’re urged to take as a sometimes interesting, sometimes annoying intellectual exercise.

We can’t afford this kind of mindset any longer.

Case in point: Catalyst paper is installing the pumps that have been discussed as a necessary eventuality for years.

These pumps will move water from Cowichan Lake into the Cowichan River to prevent it from running dry.

That’s what we’ve come to.

Conditions have been leading up to this for years, but somehow there was still an attitude in some circles that it would never actually come to pass.

The fall rains come and wash away the problem for another year, just in the nick of time. That’s how it always works, right?

Well, the weather has changed from summertime heat to more fall-like temperatures, but we still haven’t seen any rain to speak of. And there doesn’t look to be any in the immediate forecast either.

While the fall rains will come, either this year, or one very soon, they will not come soon enough. It’s only a matter of time. When, not if.

In first world countries such as ours we tend to take water for granted as cheap, plentiful, and boundless.

When we turn on the taps, it will aways be there, because to date, for most of us, that has been the case.

We run the shower continuously for 45 minutes without thinking.

We powerwash the house, the deck, the driveway, and, because it’s fun, anything else we can think of that won’t be damaged by the concentrated spray of water.

We leave the hose running while we wash the car and the tap running while we wash the dishes.

For many, conservation is not something that comes naturally, as it is not something we have ever known.

But climate change is altering this, too.

We still have plenty of rain, but it’s no longer as evenly distributed throughout the year.

The relatively warm temperatures mean the snowpack that used to accumulate at higher elevations to feed our rivers and lakes year-round is no longer serving this purpose as it once did.

Drought has become a lot more than the inconvenience of not being allowed to keep your lawn green in August.

We’re still relatively lucky. But the bottom line is that we need more water storage, and that means raising the weir at Cowichan Lake so we have a reservoir for what will almost inescapably be the dry summers ahead.