Comox Valley Regional District seeking input on development of Tsolum River Agricultural Watershed Plan

This fall, the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) is inviting the community to participate in the development of the Tsolum River Agricultural Watershed Plan to address current and future concerns about water availability for agriculture, community and instream needs.

The Tsolum River watershed, running through the heart of the Comox Valley, provides water that is critical to the health of the local agricultural community and the environment. The Tsolum River and its aquifers also provide drinking water for homes, businesses, a school, and community centres.

Like many watersheds on the east coast of Vancouver Island, the Tsolum is heavily influenced by seasonal variations in precipitation. In the winter, plentiful rain brings high water levels and occasional flooding. In dry summer months, stream flows become very low at the same time that agricultural producers, aquatic life, and residents need water the most. Groundwater is an important source for irrigation water and in-stream flows in the summer. However, availability of groundwater supplies varies.

Agriculture has a long history in the Tsolum watershed and plays an important role in the local community. Based on Statistics Canada Census Data, it is estimated that approximately $18.5 million in agri-food products are produced annually in the Tsolum watershed, 800 people are employed on farm, and producers spend approximately $14 million/year in farm operating costs – with much of this going back into the community.

Consumers are increasingly aware of the benefits of eating locally and it is possible that investment in agriculture will grow. The Comox Valley has one of the most favorable growing climates in the country, and while many areas of the province have exhausted their available agricultural land, there is still a relatively large amount of Agricultural Land Reserve in the Tsolum that could be placed in production – provided there is sufficient access to water.

Future projections for the Tsolum watershed indicate a need for more agricultural water due to the changing climate, even without increasing agricultural production. If more farmland was put into production, the amount of water needed would increase dramatically. Better information and more planning are needed to manage water in this watershed.

In May of 2018, the CVRD initiated Phase One of the Tsolum River Agricultural Watershed Plan. So far, information and data on the Tsolum has been gathered and analyzed. Now, the CVRD is reaching out to watershed stakeholders and community members for input.

Is access to water affecting your home, farm, business, or future planning?

The CVRD will be hosting a public meeting on Monday, Oct. 29 from 6-7:30 p.m., at the Rotary Room in the Florence Filberg Centre to address current and future concerns about water availability in the Tsolum. The meeting will begin with a 30-minute presentation and be followed by an informal opportunity for community members to browse informative displays, provide input, and ask questions of project representatives.

Community members are invited to learn more about the Tsolum River watershed and provide input through an online survey available at: www.comoxvalleyrd.ca/tsolumwatershed

The Tsolum River Agricultural Watershed Plan is funded in part through a grant program administered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of British Columbia, which is supported by both the provincial and federal governments.

Submitted by the Comox Valley Regional District

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