Water levels continue to rise in Cowichan Lake after recent rains, making it unlikely water pumping into the Cowichan River won’t be continued this year. (File photo)

Cowichan Lake pumps not expected to be used again this year

Enough rain has fallen to head off water emergency

Enough rain has fallen already over the past week to eliminate the risk of water shortages for the rest of the year in Cowichan Lake and river, according to Brian Houle.

Houle, environmental manager for Catalyst Crofton which operates the weir at Cowichan Lake, said that judging from the current water levels in the lake, there is enough water to sustain current water flow conditions through to Oct. 25.

“Any continuing rainfall will push out the date we may have needed to restart pumping, and we are now into the wet season,” Houle said.

“Rainfall is more likely every week at this time of year.”

Catalyst had to resort to pumping water into Cowichan River over its weir at Cowichan Lake on Aug. 29 to maintain water flows in the river.


The pumps were shut down on Sept. 18 when water levels rose after significant rain hit the area.


It’s the first time the company, which depends on water from the Cowichan River to run its pulp and paper mill operations in Crofton, has had to take such action since the weir was first constructed in the 1950s.

The region has been experiencing one of the worst droughts in decades and water basins in the region, including Cowichan Lake, were only getting about two-thirds of the water they used to get in spring and summer.


Houle said that in response to the rising water levels in the lake, as well as to the increasing number of Chinook showing up in Cowichan Bay, the river flow over the weir was increased earlier this week by 0.5 cubic metres per second, raising it from 4.5 CMS to five CMS.

He said that while not much rain is forecast right now, the wet season is here and the level in the lake is high enough to make this first move to begin increasing the water flowing in the river.

“The objective is to raise the river flow to the licence minimum of seven CMS as soon as possible,” Houle said.

“I expect the flow will be back to seven CMS by the end of next week, and sooner if possible.”

A release from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada said a total of 783 Chinook (593 adults, 190 juveniles) have been recorded going through the fish counting fence on the Cowichan River between Sept. 9 and Sept. 23.

A small number of chum, coho and pink salmon were also recorded going through the fish counting fence in that time period, but the main spawning runs of these salmon species are not expected until later this fall.

“Finalized estimates will be made available in the months following the escapement season,” the release said.


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