Cowichan Basin Water Management Plan: from Awareness to Action


No one wants to run out of water. That is why the Cowichan Basin Water Management Forum has been working to establish a basin-wide Water Management Plan. The plan will ensure that there is enough water – for people and ecosystems – now and in the future. The vulnerability of supply is a driver for changes in the way water is managed at a watershed scale and used at the site scale.

Cowichan valley water graphic


The Convening for Action on Vancouver Island (CAVI) Partnership and the Cowichan Valley Regional District are collaborating to feature the Cowichan Basin Water Management Plan as part of Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation on Vancouver Island: The 2007 Series. The Water Sustainability Action Plan for British the umbrella for the Showcasing Innovation Series.


A Visionary Water Plan

In June 2005, Cowichan Basin residents were asked for their views on water and water issues. Respondents said that the most important issues for the future (in order) were:

  • sufficient household water supply;
  • sufficient water for fish and fishing;
  • managing growth and development; and
  • reducing demand for water.

Using the information received from the public, the Cowichan Basin Water Management Forum prepared a vision and goals for water management. The following vision for water in the Basin received overwhelming public support:

  • The Cowichan Basin community conserves and manages water to ensure reliable supplies for human use, thriving ecosystems, and a healthy economy.

The public also showed strong support for the Water Management Plan's six goals, on which a series of actions are based. “We believe CAVI can help the Tom anderson, cvrd - june 2007 (160pixels)Cowichan Valley Regional District and its member municipalities add depth to three areas of the Water Management Plan: demand management; protect aquatic ecosystems; and research, education, public outreach. Recognizing the value that CAVI is providing, the Regional Services Committee at its July 2007 meeting accepted the recommendation by staff to partner with CAVI”, reports Tom Anderson, Manager of Development Services for the Regional District.

A visionary element of the Water Management Plan is the concept for a Cowichan Basin Water Advisory Council. The vision is that the Council would replace the present fragmented governance structure. The goal is to establish clear, accountable and responsive water management decision processes and governance structures.

This body is intended to develop solutions to the Basin's complex water issues by engaging the public, government, and water users in a single forum.

The Council would represent Basin-wide interests, maintain on-going dialogue among stakeholders, and build trust and ownership among the participants and the public. Implementation will require enabling changes to be made by the Province to the regulatory framework for water governance in British Columbia.

For comprehensive information on the Cowichan Basin Water Management Plan, please click here to access the Cowichan Water website.

Cowichan basin water plan - map (360pixels)

A Provincial Pilot for ‘Water for Life & Livelihoods'

The Cowichan Plan is a provincial pilot for Water for Life & Livelihoods. According to Kim Stephens (Program Coordinator for the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia), the Cowichan Basin Water Management Plan is of province-wide interest because of the pathway it has trail-blazed. Stephens also notes that the challenges faced in the Cowichan Basin are ‘universal' challenges because:

  • The Cowichan Basin has plenty of water, BUT most of it falls when demand is low, and flows are low when demand is high.
  • There are increasing and competing demands for water
  • Climate change is altering Basin hydrology.

Stephens reports that use of the phrase ‘water for life and livelihoods' has been borrowed from the United Kingdom in order to focus people on what is at stake over both the short and long terms. The phrase conveys the fundamental principles of sustainability of natural systems in their own right and in relation to the health and well-being of people who benefit from the use of water for basic life needs and economic activity. For more information about 'water for life and livelihoods', please click here.

Cowichan basin water plan - highlights (360pixels)

Alignment with CAVI Program

“The Cowichan Water Plan is already informing CAVI. It was a featured case study at the Creating Our Future Workshop in June 2007″, adds Stephens, “Where and how land is developed determines how water is used and how water runs off the land. Over time, water sustainability can be achieved through implementation of green infrastructure practices that reflect a full and proper understanding on the part of practitioners about the relationship between land and water.”

“Moving ‘green infrastructure' and ‘water sustainability' from awareness to action requires equipping local governments and the development community with new tools and the capabilities to use those tools”, concludes Tom Anderson, “It is for this reason that the Cowichan Valley Regional District will be co-sponsoring a Water Balance Model Training Workshop in early 2008 as part of its commitment to CAVI.”

Cowichan basin water plan - implementation  (360pixels)


Showcasing Innovation Series

The Cowichan Valley Regional District, District of North Cowichan, and City of Duncan  will co-host the second event in a series of three events that comprise Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation on Vancouver Island: The 2007 Series. The Cowichan event will be on Friday, September 28. For complete information on the Cowichan program, please click here.


Posted August 2007