So here it is, a moment in history many thought would never actually come: Crofton’s Catalyst pulp mill will start pumping water over the weir at Cowichan Lake into the Cowichan River today.
A tiny bit of rain postponed pumping plans for what turned out to be mere days. 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. It’s been threatened before in previous years, but 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 Vancouver Island’s mighty water arteries is feeling it. Along with this step to keep the Cowichan River running, the province last week started restricting water use on the nearby 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. Industrial use of Koksilah water has been halted, along with watering for forage crops. That may not be end of it. All indications are that the situation is getting worse by the day.
Our water woes are probably our most visible sign of climate change here. And while pumps, raising the weir and other proposals look to adapt the Cowichan River watershed, other Island watersheds 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 have to be dire elsewhere.
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.
This is another wake-up call. Are your eyes open yet?