The Cowichan Lake weir. (File photo)

Editorial: We must adapt to summer drought conditions

Increasingly, when it comes to water, we are feast or famine

Projections have a new weir under construction at Cowichan Lake by 2024. It can’t come soon enough.

We were reminded again last week of the precarious situation we so often find ourselves in when it comes to water in the summer in the Cowichan Valley.

While winter raises the spectre of floods and long months of rain, the summer is a different story, one measured in drought levels and water restrictions. Increasingly, when it comes to water, we are feast or famine, depending on the time of the year.

Last week the province declared the Cowichan Valley, and much of eastern Vancouver Island, to be in drought level 4, one level below the maximum on a 0-5 scale. And it’s only the middle of July, with the normally driest months of August and September still to come. In accordance with this announcement, the Cowichan Valley Regional District moved to stage 3 water restrictions which forbid the use of sprinklers, washing your house and car, and filling pools or hot tubs. Other types of watering are also curtailed somewhat.

The most worrying areas, according to the province are around the Koksilah and Chemainus rivers, but the Cowichan River is certainly not immune.

Erecting a new weir at Lake Cowichan will not solve all of the water problems in the Cowichan Valley. But it will make a significant difference to Cowichan’s largest watershed around Cowichan Lake and the Cowichan River, and all of those that depend upon these ecosystems, from people to animals to fish. When we get record-setting temperatures soaring into the 40 C range as we did in late June, we must remember that aquatic habitats need even more water than usual to buffer them from the extreme heat. Anyone visiting an ocean beach after the heat wave could smell just how many sea creatures did not survive the unaccustomed baking. Water storage in the summer, provided by the weir, will only become more critical as time goes on. It’s our storage for during the famine.

Both as individuals and communities we should be looking at water capture methods that can help to tide us over until the fall rains.

In the meantime, we must all get serious about water conservation. No, one person individually won’t make much of a dent, but collectively we certainly do. That means summer habits like shorter showers, turning the tap off when we brush our teeth or wash the dishes, and using a drip system to water the garden if at all possible. We cannot make it rain, so we must adapt.

Cowichan Valley Citizen