Comox Lake is the drinking water source for much of the Comox Valley. File photo

WATER WISE: Healthy watersheds should be a priority for all political parties

Do you know where your party of choice stands on the subject of clean water?

TANIS GOWER

Special to The Record

Whether or not you welcome the provincial vote this October, Election 2020 is giving us another opportunity to consider our priorities. The circumstances wrought by the global COVID-19 pandemic continue to prompt individuals and society to reflect about what is important. Common themes include the importance of reconnecting with nature, and the importance of food and water security. From my vantage point as a biologist, our supplies of food and water are inherently connected to the health of our natural environment.

From tourism to forestry, to fisheries, to agriculture, to recreation, B.C.’s watersheds are the foundation of our economy. Healthy natural watersheds in turn support the wild salmon central to food security and local economies, even as the salmon themselves support the web of life in our streams and forests.

Many of B.C.’s southern and interior watersheds are threatened by water scarcity. Low stream flows are harming salmon, while farmers may not have enough water for their crops. The demands of a growing population only increase this pressure on our water resources – B.C. has twice as many residents as it did in the 1970s, with more arriving each year.

Damage to forests and streams, along with poor water stewardship, has made many watersheds more susceptible to climate change stress. Excessive logging, agriculture, and development can take away the ability of forests to filter and store water. Over-extraction of water for agriculture and other needs is reducing flows in waterways. The drought, heat, and changes in snowpack brought by climate change are further decreasing summertime water availability. Yet healthy, resilient watersheds are what we need to face the future.

The BC Watershed Security Coalition – representing British Columbians from all walks of life and all parts of the Province – is asking the province for a long-term investment in B.C.’s watershed security. Security means having reliable, clean drinking water and water for agriculture, as well as the other ecosystem services healthy watersheds provide such as flood control, and fish and wildlife habitat.

Watershed security requires the Province to implement B.C.’s 2016 Water Sustainability Act to support the development of local watershed boards. As climate change accelerates and population numbers continue to grow, it is the locals who have the most at stake, and it is they who should be empowered to make the hard decisions, including which human water uses to prioritize when there is not enough water to go around.

Provincially supported, watershed-scale governance processes are now underway in two B.C. watersheds, one in the Merritt area, and one near Duncan, with local First Nations as co-leads. These initiatives show great promise. Provincial resources are now needed to support local watershed boards in every watershed with dangerously low stream flows, water shortages and competing water uses.

The Province has acknowledged that investing in watershed security is part of a COVID-19 recovery. Last month, they announced an investment of $27 million to employ people to improve the health of our watersheds. This is an important first step. Extensive research shows that investment in watershed restoration creates jobs and economic activity equivalent to other kinds of public infrastructure works. And, investing in healthy watersheds also happens to create major long-term benefits in the form of free ecosystem services, such as clean, reliable water supplies.

A province-wide watershed security fund that supports locals to monitor, restore and steward their watersheds is the next step. Between now and October 24, I encourage everyone to ask their candidates how they would make healthy watersheds, clean water and wild salmon a priority if they are elected. Now is the time to invest in the watersheds that support B.C. and invest in the future of life itself.

Tanis Gower is a Registered Professional Biologist from the Comox Valley. She has 25 years’ experience working as a consultant, in government, and in the non-profit sector, including as a Science and Policy Advisor for Watershed Watch Salmon Society.

ColumnistComox ValleyWater

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Vancouver Island marmot is an endangered species. Pictured here, a marmot at Mount Washington. (Black Press file)
VIDEO: ‘Frisky’ Vancouver Island marmots caught on camera

Marmots are catching the eye of researchers when caught on security cameras getting ‘quite frisky’

Karilyn, right, with her older sister, Sabrina. Both siblings are members of the YANA family, after being helped by the community organization on separate occasions. Photo supplied
Siblings both members of the YANA family

Comox Valley non-profit helped Geiger family on separate occasions

A second-floor balcony continues to smoulder after a fire extinguisher was used to get a small balcony fire under control at the Washington Inn Apartments. Brian Hayward, who lives on the third floor, was alerted to the fire by the smell of smoke wafting into his apartment. Photo by Brian Hayward.
Courtenay firefighters respond to balcony fire at Washington Inn Apartments

Firefighters were called out to the Washington Inn Apartments Sunday, April 17,… Continue reading

RCMP forensics investigators scour the site north of Highland School in Comox, where multiple people were stabbed during a party Saturday night, April 16. Photo by Terry Farrell
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Comox bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault near Highland Secondary

Cumberland is surrounded by trees — and logging. Its council is supporting a call to stop old-growth logging in vulnerable areas of the province such as Fairy Creek. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Cumberland backs request to save B.C.’s old-growth forests

The Comox Youth Climate Council is asking local governments to take stand

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Wickaninnish (Clifford Atleo) plays the drum while singing the Nuu-chah-nulth song on the court steps in Vancouver In a picture from April 2018. Photo credit, Melody Charlie.
Five western Vancouver Island First Nations celebrate legal fishing victory

Court ruling confirms Nuu-chah-nulth fishing rights in case dating back to 2003

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Most Read