Editorial: Water the top story of 2019 at Cowichan Lake

The first inkling that there was going to be a major problem was in early March

Between entangled elk, the Lady of the Lake contest being cancelled for the year, and a month of snow in February, there was plenty to make headlines up at Cowichan Lake in 2019.

But there was one thing that surfaced early, and continued through the year: water woes.

The first inkling that there was going to be a major problem was in early March, when the Cowichan Stewardship Rountable reported that the Lake was only about 40 per cent full — and this is typically in the middle of the rainy season.

Many shrugged off that early warning, presuming there was plenty of time for the spring rains to come and fill up the tank, as it were. But that didn’t happen. By May efforts were underway to rescue fry from tributaries to the lake system. And by August Catalyst, which operates the weir controlling water from the lake into Cowichan River, took the unprecedented step of beginning to pump water over the weir to keep the river running.

We hope things will be better next year, but all too often, what’s past is prologue. With climate change upon us, and years of increasingly severe summer droughts behind, it seems more likely that this pattern will continue into the future. The Cowichan Valley Regional District, which is in the initial stages of planning to raise the weir to hold more water in advance of the summer months, calls it The New Normal.

Whatever you want to call it, it is clear that we can no longer take for granted that our water systems, so much more than adequate in the past, are facing a crisis.

The idea of raising the weir is not a particularly new one. It has been especially controversial around Cowichan Lake, as property owners worry about losing beachfronts to more water. The group Weir Ready has been doing a great job of going individually to residents’ properties and showing them exactly where the water is likely to rise to if the weir is raised. Check them out if you’re a waterfront property owner who hasn’t had this done and would like to. Because it looks as if raising the weir is definitely in the cards now.

It needs to be. Snowpack isn’t what it used to be, and when rainfall falls short, a reserve of water is required, not only to keep human activities going (like taking showers, brushing teeth, and flushing toilets), but also for the survival of our salmon, and all of the myriad wildlife and ecosystems of which they form the bedrock.

What is your pick for the top story of 2019? Be sure to check out the first six months of our year in review.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

One dead as fish boat sinks off southern Vancouver Island

Shawnigan Lake-registered Arctic Fox II went down off Cape Flattery, west of Victoria

Three active COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island

Since July 24, Central island has had five new cases, North one, South none

Alf Todd on a mission to fight Parkinson’s disease

Todd and group hope to raise $10,000 riding bikes to Port Alberni

Man arrested after stabbing incident at makeshift camp near Vancouver Island mall

RCMP in Parksville report 28-year-old man taken into custody without incident

Canucks ride momentum into NHL playoff series against defending Stanley Cup champs

PREVIEW: Vancouver opens against St. Louis on Wednesday

Man, 54, charged in connection with fatal attack of Red Deer doctor

Doctor was killed in his walk-in clinic on Monday

Landlord takes front door, windows after single B.C. mom late with rent

Maple Ridge mom gets help from community generosity and government

42 more people test positive for COVID-19 in B.C.

The province has recorded no new deaths in recent days

Joe Biden selects California Sen. Kamala Harris as running mate

Harris and Biden plan to deliver remarks Wednesday in Wilmington

Lawsuit launched after Florida child handcuffed, booked and briefly jailed

Suit alleges “deliberate indifference” to what should have been handled as a behavioural issue

Russia approves vaccine, Putin hopes to begin mass production

Critic calls decision to proceed without thorough testing ‘dangerous and grossly immoral’

Most Read