Low river flows effect our collective well-being. They impact indigenous cultures that are interconnected with healthy watersheds; they threaten 600 union jobs at the Crofton mill; they could cause water quality issues tied to sewage dilution or impact drinking water supplies for some. River-based recreation and tourism are major contributors to the local economy and the quality of life of citizens. Many wildlife species are also negatively affected by drought and low river flows.
Low flows also threaten the five species of salmon, four species of trout and vibrant ecosystems that comprise the Cowichan watershed. The iconic Cowichan Chinook are a food source for the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales, and our Chinook are monitored by Canada and the US as an indicator of overall Chinook health to set harvest levels for both the sport and commercial fisheries throughout British Columbia. Scientists recently concluded that:
”The Cowichan River is one of the most productive rivers on the eastern side of Vancouver Island and without action it will look radically different by the 2050s. Salmon stocks that utilize the river to spawn and rear during the summer and early fall period will be decimated. Chinook, Coho and Steelhead are particularly vulnerable.” Source: Cowichan Water Use Plan (2018) www.cowichanwup.ca.
The Cowichan River has been designated as a Canadian and BC Heritage River in recognition of the rich cultural, ecological and economic systems that thrive in this vibrant watershed. The river has been vital for transportation, food, social, and spiritual well-being for First Nations for millennia and continues to be to this day. This river deserves all the help we can give it.