The Cowichan Valley, along with most of eastern Vancouver Island and southern B.C., is now at drought Level 4, and as a result all water systems in the Cowichan region will be subject to Stage 3 water restrictions beginning Friday, July 16 at 12 a.m.
Under Stage 3 restrictions, the use of sprinklers is not permitted, nor is the washing of vehicles and homes, or the filling of pools and hot tubs. Hand watering of trees, shrubs and gardens may be done for a maximum of two hours per day, between the hours of 7-9 a.m. or 7-9 p.m. The use of micro or drip-irrigation systems are permitted anytime for a maximum of four hours per day.
The restrictions apply to water systems serviced by the Cowichan Valley Regional District, local municipalities, Cowichan Tribes, Stz’uminus First Nation, Cowichan Bay Improvement District and Mill Bay Waterworks District.
“We all have a role to play in managing our water supply to help our economy and our ecosystem,” CVRD chair Aaron Stone said. “With no rain on the horizon, it’s incredibly important for everyone to do what they can to limit their water use and help bridge this dangerously dry period. Annual water conservation also helps ensure we are prepared for the possibility of longer-term drought conditions as a result of climate change. Minimizing draw down for our reservoirs and aquifers gives the natural systems we all rely on the best opportunity to recharge.”
Low rainfall this spring and the wave of extreme heat in late June and into July have caused these conditions.
With drought measured on a 0-5 scale, with 5 being the most severe, the East Vancouver Island Basin is already at Level 4 in early July.
“At this level, adverse impacts on people or ecosystems are likely. Adverse impacts on fish have been observed, due to very high water temperatures combined with low flow conditions, dewatering of riffle habitats and disconnected side channels,” according to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “Water conservation is being urged across the region to help reduce the risk of significant impacts on the environment or other water users.”
The Koksilah and Chemainus rivers in the Cowichan Valley have been listed as areas of particular concern for risk of additional impacts of water scarcity and drought as well as Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands watersheds including but not limited to: Sandhill Creek, Millstone River, Tsolum River, Black Creek, Fulford Creek on Salt Spring Island, as well as the majority of the Gulf Islands.
“Water conservation is everyone’s responsibility,” reports the Ministry. “Aggressive conservation is being urged for all areas affected by drought. Residential, agricultural and industrial water users in areas affected by drought should observe all water conservation bylaws, watering restrictions and advice from their local government, irrigation district or water utility.”
Residents are asked to limit their outdoor watering, to take shorter showers and install water-efficient taps and appliances, while farmers are asked to time irrigation to weather conditions, crop needs and soil storage capacity, and focus on high-value crops and livestock. Industry is asked to reduce non-essential water use, recycle used water, and use water efficient methods and equipment.
To see where your area is visit the B.C. Drought Information Portal at: https://governmentofbc.maps.arcgis.com