Stage Two watering restrictions in force Monday, after river flows dropped to lowest allowable
The Cowichan Valley Regional District will be the first on the Island to move to stage two watering restrictions Monday, as the region looks to avert critically low flows on the Cowichan River in the months ahead.
With the region already facing drought conditions, officials made the call last week to reduce flows coming out of the weir at the south end of the lake to the lowest they can go
“The decision to reduce flow to 4.5 [cubic] metres per second was out of necessity,” said Ian Morrison, CVRD director for South Cowichan Lake/Skutz Falls and a member of the Cowichan Watershed Board. “Running out of water was going to happen in the middle of the summer.”
It’s the first time the minimum flow level has been put in place before the end of May since the weir was built in 1957.
The Cowichan river has been under stress for the past several summers, but after early spring conditions washed snowpack melt through the system faster than normal the lake is already under half storage.
In response, the entire CVRD will move to stage two watering restrictions effective Monday.
“It will have different impacts,” said Morrison. “When it comes to your lawn, brown is beautiful, but if we can’t maintain sufficient flows for Catalyst to continue to operate, if they’re shut down and their employees are laid off that will have a dramatic economic impact on our area.”
Even with the steps being taken, without significant rainfall forecasters warn Lake Cowichan will reach zero storage the first week of September.
While the region, province and other stakeholders continue to talk about increasing the lake’s storage level for future years, Morrison says 2016 is shaping up to be another challenging summer for the Cowichan River, the people who live along it, and fish that live in it.