Editorial: Water bodies under stress from all directions

Our water bodies and all of the life they sustain are under increasing strain.

One thing has become very clear of late: our water bodies and all of the life they sustain are under increasing strain.

Last weekend, a man planned to swim the length of the Cowichan River to try to draw attention to deteriorating water conditions. A PhD graduate in natural resources and environmental studies, he named climate change and problems with toxic sunscreens that people wear into the river as threats. The crayfish population, he said, is a fraction of what it once was, and that’s just one example.

We’ve written in this space before about the need for water conservation, as salmon fry die stranded in shallow pools, cut off from Cowichan Lake and the river by unseasonably dry weather that has water levels already at alarming lows for so early in the summer season.

We ran two stories in last week’s Gazette about pressures facing Cowichan Lake and Cowichan River, after Ken Traynor of the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society spoke to Lake Cowichan council.

Invasive Japanese knotweed is thriving at the Lake, spreading it’s choking foliage to the detriment of everything else trying to grow. Best to tackle it now, rather than see it become the urgent problem parrotfeather has become in fresh water bodies in North Cowichan. It’s the usual story. Japanese knotweed is pretty. People bought and planted it for its looks. Now it’s out of control.

A second story posited the idea of putting up a sign on the way into Lake Cowichan that would show the lake and river levels in a bid to get people to conserve water — both tourists and locals. We don’t think it’s a bad idea. Especially in the case of tourists, many likely come to the community with no idea that there’s any need to try to minimize water use. Especially since it’s likely they’re coming to play on the lake. For some, it won’t make a dent in their water usage. But for others, once they know there’s a problem, it will prompt conservation.

As for sunscreens, we certainly advise people to wear them, or to cover up when in the sun. Burns can be serious, and too much sun exposure can lead to skin cancer. But instead of just picking up whatever is cheapest at the drug store before heading to the river to tube, or heading to the lake for a swim, maybe take a look at the ingredients and try to choose something that’s less toxic for the water, if you know you’re going for a dip. Look for a mineral sunscreen containing zinc oxide, rather than a chemical sunscreen.

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