A water sustainability plan may be required for the users of the Koksilah watershed if drought continues. (File photo)

Government sends letter urging conservation to users in Vancouver Island’s Koksilah watershed

Water sustainability plan may be required

While many in the Cowichan Valley are focused on low water levels in Cowichan Lake and Cowichan River, the situation for residents who depend on water from the Koksilah watershed could be even worse.

Residents with wells and water licences in that watershed area have been requested by the province to reduce their water use for the remainder of the dry conditions being experienced in the region.

A letter from David Robinson, the province’s assistant water manager for the west coast region, dated June 5, said if the water levels in the watershed reach critically low levels, as forecasts are indicating, regulatory action may be triggered which may include restricting water use under the province’s Water Sustainability Act.

“While water remains available for use, we are concerned that the current situation will lead to critical low flows this summer, affecting fish habitat,” Robinson said.

RELATED STORY: VANCOUVER ISLAND WATER SYSTEM AT 50-YEAR LOW

Alison Nicholson, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s director for Cowichan Station/Sahtlam/Glenora which also covers the Koksilah watershed, said the water situation seems to get worse year by year.

She said that while in previous drought years, letters were sent to those with water licences to conserve water, this is the first year a letter was sent to almost all water users on the watershed.

“It’s a real worry and there’s huge community interest on this issue,” she said.

“We need to think seriously about our land-use practices. We have a huge farming community, private forest management lands and also a lot of residents dependent on the watershed. There are so many demands and only so much water to go around, so we have to ensure it goes to the highest priorities.”

Tom Rutherford, executive director of the Cowichan Watershed Board, said water levels in the Koksilah River go much lower than the levels in the Cowichan River, one of the main groundwater sources for the Valley, during times of drought.

“Cowichan River has a large lake at the head of it while the Koksilah River does not, so hydrology issues there have to be dealt with in different ways,” he said.

“Currently, the situation in the Koksilah watershed is even more dire than the one in Cowichan.”

RELATED STORY: WATER LEVELS IN COWICHAN LAKE NOW CONSIDERED “DIRE”

In the letter to the Koksilah water users, Robinson said that evaluating the efficiency of their water systems with respect to leaks, design and unnecessary irrigation will help ensure maximum benefit and minimal waste of their water use.

He said a monitoring and forecasting program is being led by provincial water staff with the goal of providing advanced warning of when river flows are approaching what is called the “critical environmental flow threshold”, and if the flows in the Koksilah River fall below the CEFT, action may have to be taken.

Rutherford said the Koksilah watershed is the first on the Island where provincial water staff, include biologists, have been actively monitoring flows on a regular basis for years to determine impacts on fish habitats.

He said a new tool that has been developed is water sustainability plans for watersheds that are vulnerable to drought conditions which would involve all residents, businesses and operations that depend on water from the watersheds.

“Everyone would get together to figure out how to manage the land better to sustain better water flows,” Rutherford said.

“Aspects of the plan would be enforceable if all parties agree. If such a management tool is developed for the Koksilah watershed, it would be the first one in B.C.”

The B.C. government already announced a Level 3 drought rating for all of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands last week.

RELATED STORY: COWICHAN LOOKING AT STAGE 2 WATER RESTRICTIONS AS LEVEL 3 DROUGHT DECLARED

The heightened alert means a call for voluntary water-use reductions for all surface and groundwater users, including farmers, local governments and residents alike.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

The CVRD is instituting Stage 2 water restrictions today, June 14.

Just Posted

Inaugural Sarah Beckett memorial Run raises $20,000 for law enforcement scholarship

Widow calls run, community playground fitting tributes to fallen mom and Mountie

Every situation is different, jurors hear at coroners inquest into Oak Bay teen’s overdose death

Pediatrician says involuntary treatment necessary following overdose, opioid use

‘The system has fallen apart:’ Victoria woman’s son died a day after being accepted to treatment centre

Victoria man’s body went undiscovered in Victoria parking lot for five days after overdose

Japanese knotweed has come to Sooke, and that’s a problem

Invasive plant is a serious threat to waterways and infrastructure

VIDEO: Victoria airport guests see dinosaur surprise

Two boys dressed as raptors get a shock when their grandmother comes to greet them

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of June 25

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you think the penalty should be increased for tossing a burning cigarette from a vehicle?

With grasslands and forests around Vancouver Island and across B.C. reaching tinder… Continue reading

B.C. Ferries vessel breaks down right before long weekend

Horseshoe Bay-Langdale route impacted most, revised schedule adds 4 a.m. sailings

Weather Canada issues thunderstorm alert for coastal Vancouver Island

Severe thunderstorm watch issued around 4:15 p.m. as storms developed over sections of the Island

Nanaimo man gets jail time for posting explicit photos of ex-girlfriends

Man’s name cannot be revealed to protect victims’ identities

North Island thrift store robbed at knifepoint, say RCMP

Suspect fled on bicycle following Tuesday stick-up

RCMP across Canada to soon unionize, according to B.C. mayor

A spokeswoman for RCMP headquarters in Ottawa says it’s not yet a done deal

Most Read