Pumping over the weir in Cowichan Lake will not be required this summer. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

Pumping over the weir in Cowichan Lake will not be required this summer. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

Editorial: 2020 respite doesn’t mean we can take water for granted

It’s not something we can take as a sign of things to come

There are a lot of things we aren’t hearing about this year, that normally take up space in our public discourse, so we can be excused for not particularly noticing any one missing item.

Among the things that haven’t been in the news that would usually be splashed across our front pages are Sunfest, Lake Days, and the Youbou Regatta — all of which were cancelled or postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Numerous other community events from Canada Day gatherings to Honeymoon Bay Day have likewise left a hole in our lives.

But there is one item not related to COVID that isn’t happening this year, and that’s the discussion of what our drought levels are and whether the pumps will have to start up to keep the Cowichan River flowing. The reason for that? An unusually wet spring and summer that have left the river flowing just fine to date. It is anticipated that’s not going to change, either, and the pumps will remain silent.

For at least the last 10 years, by the time we get to August our rivers, streams and lakes have been in dire shape due to drought. The Chemainus, Koksilah and Cowichan rivers have been the subject of numerous advisories and warnings in the last several years, with last year being particularly bad. Restrictions were put in place by the province in the Koksilah watershed for the first time last summer, for example, and pumps at the Cowichan Lake weir pushed water into the river to keep it flowing.

We’re getting a reprieve this summer, which all of us, weary and worried by the pandemic, surely appreciate. But it’s not something we can take as a sign of things to come, or a reason to start taking our water for granted. While we have this reprieve, we should be looking at ways that we can conserve so when future droughts inevitably come along we are more prepared. That means everything from regional solutions like planning for the installation of a new, taller weir at the lake to store the winter’s water, to individual efforts that can range from drip or weeper hose water systems for gardens to rainwater collection systems and getting into the habit of conservation. This last can include everything from shorter showers to simply turning off the tap while we wash our dishes or brush our teeth.

We can’t afford to let one year’s respite see a return to bad habits or the mindset that our water supplies are an infinite resource.

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