Editorial: Pumping over the weir a wake-up call on drought

Even after the pumps were installed, many thought it wouldn’t come to this

So here it is folks, a moment in history many thought would never actually come: Catalyst started pumping water over the weir at Cowichan Lake last Thursday.

A tiny bit of rain postponed pumping plans for what turned out to be mere days earlier in August. Pumping is being done to keep the river running for fish populations and human populations alike.

Even after the pumps were installed, many thought it wouldn’t come to this as in previous years, fall rains have come just in the nick of time. But this unprecedented move is now well and truly upon us.

It is extraordinarily dry, and even Cowichan’s mighty water arteries are feeling it. Along with this step to keep the Cowichan River running, in August the province started restricting water use on the Koksilah River, an extreme step we’ve never seen before. In doing so, officials called the habitat conditions on the Koksilah “severely degraded”. This is bad news for fish and other wildlife that depend on that water. So industrial use of the water has been halted, along with watering for forage crops. That may not be end of it. All indications are that the situation is only getting worse by the day. And that’s in spite of whatever small amount of rain may have fallen last weekend.

Our water woes are probably our most visible sign of climate change here in the Cowichan Valley. And while pumps, raising the weir and other proposals look to adapt the Cowichan River watershed, others such as the Chemainus and Koksilah are not receiving the same amount of attention. But they need to be. If we’re down to pumping on the Cowichan River, that means things are even more dire on our smaller watercourses.

Many are doing their best to conserve this precious resource where they can. But there are still those who are seemingly oblivious to the drought crisis. It seems as long as water still comes out of their taps when they turn them on, they will do nothing — or even continue to waste water. Nobody needs to power wash the fence in the middle of a drought.

Will the dropping water levels on Cowichan Lake, which promise to be prominently visible if the pumps continue for any length of time, finally get all those who have been resistant to start conserving water? Will a two-foot drop in the lake be enough to get everyone on board?

This is another wake-up call. Are your eyes open yet?

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