Summer flows in the Koksilah River have been exceptionally low in recent years at times when demand for water is the greatest. This threatens the survival of resident and anadromous salmonid species and the aquatic ecosystem.
In the winter, extreme flooding is an increasing issue, endangering homes in the lower watershed, and further degrading the condition of the river through erosion and loss of ecosystem diversity.
Learn more about the condition of the lower Koksilah River and riparian ecosystems here:
These are complex and long-standing issues arising from decades of land use decisions that did not prioritize planning for watershed health. The impacts to the river, salmon, local and indigenous food supplies, and overall community well-being affect us all, and are intensifying with climate change.
Unlike the Cowichan River, the Koksilah is an uncontrolled river (no weir) with no large lakes to store abundant winter water, nor high mountains to store water as snow pack, to moderate summer dry periods. As such, there are limited options available to manage flows other than changing our current practices around land use (including forestry, agriculture, housing, roads, industry, storm-water management, etc.) and water use.
There is broad agreement that now is the time to work together to turn things around. While there are no easy answers, doing nothing is not an option, and new collaborations and partnerships are emerging. The Cowichan Watershed Board is involved in or supporting a variety of these initiatives. Here are links to some of these projects where you can learn more:
- Xwulqw’selu Watershed Planning Process, lead by Cowichan Tribes and the Province of BC
- Xwulqw’selu Connections, lead by University of Victoria
- Koksilah Watershed Working Group, lead by Cowichan Station Area Association
In addition, an informal “Koksilah low flows working group” has been formed between agencies and organizations working on these issues to collaboratively work with water users to navigate periods of low flow. This ad-hoc group is comprised of representatives from Ministry of Forests Water Authorizations, Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Cowichan Station’s Koksilah Working Group, BC Dairy Association, BC Agriculture Council, Farmland Advantage, Private Forest Landowner Association, Mosaic, Water Survey of Canada, Xwulqw’selu Connections, Cowichan Estuary Nature Center and the Cowichan Watershed Board.
Over the past four years, the working group has organized an annual Community Update for residents and other interested people in the spring to provide information on how the government plans to measure and manage water flows in the coming dry season, how Cowichan Tribes and the Province are working towards a long term Sustainable Watershed Plan, and other initiatives and projects that people can learn about and/or engage in.
This year (2023) this will be offered in two formats:
ONLINE: Tues. June 6th @7-8:30 pm. Presentations followed by Q&A. See poster and register for the zoom link at https://bit.ly/koksilah-water
Come to learn about initiatives underway to respond to the situation and hardships in the short term, as well as research, restoration, and planning for a more secure water future.