Water Stewardship Information Sources

Citation Smorong, D and Epps, D. 2014. Cowichan Watershed Assessment, Phase 2 - Lower Watershed, 2013 Data Summary. BC Ministry of Environment.
Organization Ministry of Environment
URL http://cvrdnewnormalcowichan.ca/wp-content/uploads/CowichanWatershedPhase2_FINAL_20140619r.pdf
Abstract/Description or Keywords Cumulative effects due to urbanization, population growth and land use have become the dominant
drivers affecting water and air quality on much of Vancouver Island, particularly the east coast corridor.
The traditional focus on large “point sources” is no longer effective as a stand-alone tool in the protection
of water and air quality. A more effective integrated approach links land use to environmental quality
through area based planning, supported by science based monitoring, regulatory compliance and shared
The Ministry of Environment’s West Coast Region has developed an integrated compliance plan which
incorporates receiving environment monitoring and assessment into compliance and inspection priorities,
planning, shared stewardship and partnerships. The Cowichan River has been highlighted as a priority
area for implementation of the integrated plan and subsequent allocation of resources. The Cowichan and
Koksilah Rivers support one of Vancouver Island’s most valuable sport, commercial and First Nations
fisheries. The Cowichan River is one of only three rivers in BC designated as a Canadian Heritage River,
based on its outstanding natural, cultural and recreational values. This watershed is used extensively for
contact recreation such as swimming and kayaking, and is also a source of water for drinking, irrigation
and industrial purposes (McKean, 1989).
The Town of Lake Cowichan has an authorized sewage treatment plant (STP) effluent discharge into the
Cowichan River located in the upper watershed, approximately 3.5 km downstream of the weir at
Cowichan Lake, and the City of Duncan/District of North Cowichan, referred to as the Joint Utilities
Board (JUB), also has an authorized treated STP discharge into the river approximately 1.5 km
downstream of the highway bridge in the lower watershed. Water quality objectives were developed in
1989 (McKean) for the Cowichan-Koksilah Rivers in an attempt to protect the water quality from
activities that were occurring within the watershed, such as forestry, agriculture, industrial operations and
residential development.
Ongoing water quality concerns from both point and non point sources in portions of Cowichan Bay and
the Cowichan and Koksilah Rivers still remain an issue. Fish kills have been documented in “Fish Gut
Alley” over the last 2 years from storm water discharges. Urbanization and population growth trends are
predicted to continue. The upper Cowichan Lake area is undergoing a land use change from timber
harvesting to recreational property and residential growth along the lake. The Cowichan Watershed
Board has recognized the need for protection and restoration through the establishment of seven “targets”
for the watershed, including total suspended solids (TSS), water quality, and edible shellfish in Cowichan
Bay. The Ministry of Environment (MOE) in consultation with partners and stakeholders has also
established WQO’s for Cowichan Lake (Epps and Phippen, 2011), and innovative phosphorus loadings
limits for the Duncan/North Cowichan JUB discharge. Targets and WQOs are highly effective tools to
support change and a move towards better management through area-based planning (ABP), which links
regulatory compliance, and land use to water quality in a proactive manner to protect the environment.
Liquid waste management planning (LWMP) is the regulatory framework which can guide this process.
British Columbia Ministry of Environment 2
Under the LWMP, storm (rain) water can be managed through low impact development techniques, best
management practices, marine environmental protection, spill prevention and rainwater management
education. Furthermore, LWMP is tied to extensive monitoring programs, which supports both water
quality objectives and watershed targets. Ultimately, these plans and targets must be linked to land use
decisions at the local government level through OCPs and bylaws, and followed through with
enforcement actions as appropriate.
The Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Committee has also been instrumental in establishing a lake
management process for Cowichan Lake. Activities include fish habitat assessment and spawning areas,
riparian assessments, mapping and studies around lake level.
Shared stewardship through collaborative partnerships, including the media is a key principle underlying
the Cowichan Watershed Partnership project. Collaboration and consultation leverages resources, builds
common goals, leads to greater buy in and credibility, and far more effective outcomes. A
communications team will develop a media plan to raise awareness of water quality issues through the use
of newspaper articles, media events, and other social media and marketing tools. This approach continues
to be used successfully in affecting behavioural change related to air and water quality issues throughout
the east coast of Vancouver Island, including the Cowichan Valley.
Information Type report
Regional Watershed Vancouver Island South
Sub-watershed if known Cowichan
Aquifer #
Project status complete
Contact Name
Contact Email