The Cowichan River floods the Hatchery dike in Duncan, Monday, Jan. 29. (Tim Kulchyski photo)

Column: What’s up in the Watershed? Lots and lots of rain

Flow rates in excess of 440 cubic metres per second were being recorded

By Jill Thompson

“And when it rains…. ”

While summer droughts and lake storage are frequently up for discussion at the Cowichan Watershed Board meetings, the Jan. 29 meeting had some attendees preoccupied by the opposite trend in our changing climate.

Flow rates in excess of 440 cubic metres per second were being recorded, eventually reaching 560 CMS by day’s end. This is enough water to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool about every five seconds, and is about 100 times more than the summer flow rate in recent summers.

Cowichan Tribes’ biologist Tim Kulchyski shared a photo from that morning showing the river rushing up a side-channel that Cowichan Tribes built to provide sheltering habitat for fish.

What if some of this current abundance of water could be saved for slow release in the late summer months? That question and others are being addressed by the community members including Cowichan Watershed Board and Cowichan Tribes who are working with the CVRD on the Cowichan Water Use Plan to be completed this spring (https://cowichanwup.ca/). The board is also running a “Capture the Rain Campaign” in partnership with the Citizen to promote residential rainwater capture and storage for outdoor summer watering.

Executive Director Tom Rutherford gave a review of the board’s work to explore and strengthen watershed co-governance between Cowichan Tribes and CVRD. Updating the board’s governance manual to clarify that the Koksilah River system is part of the Cowichan watershed and clarifying the “consensus-based” decision making model were two of the many items identified so far through a facilitated workshop series to make the Watershed Board stronger and more effective. The goal of the workshops is to make improvements to the Watershed Board in its current role, and prepare it for an expanded role in watershed governance.

The board also heard from biologist Dr. Dave Preikshot on the 2017 water quality sample results in the Cowichan, Somenos, Quamichan, and Koksilah systems. A full report is expected next month but initial data analysis identified significantly elevated levels of phosphorus and e-coli bacteria in some areas. The results will pinpoint problem areas to enable targeted management strategies.

A 2017 year end summary highlighted the annual Cowichan River clean up, the Water Conservation Challenge, citizen outreach and education, and supporting the committed volunteers in the Cowichan Valley Stewardship community as some of the other accomplishments last year.

Our meetings are held on the last Monday of the month at 9:15 a.m. and are open to the public. More info: http://cowichanwatershedboard.ca/meetings

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