River below Kinsol trestle near Shawnigan Lake.

River below Kinsol trestle near Shawnigan Lake.

Our forests can dry out pretty quickly

The government points to rapid snowmelt, early record temperatures and sparse spring rainfall for our current drought conditions.

The rain held off on Sunday and I headed south to Shawnigan Lake to check out the Kinsol trestle. Aside from admiring the magnificent feat of human engineering that created that structure, we headed down one of the trails into the cool, humid forest. Every so often mud squished under our shoes and water gurgled in the small river nearby.

Having been there for only the first time Sunday, I had no reference point for the normal level of the water for this time of year. A pipe nearby may have indicated a high-water mark that was about a foot higher, and rocks were easily seen in wide, shallow areas. But the river seemed to be flowing well and we’d just had rain the day before.

I know the latter because we were at an outdoor wedding.

It’s hard to understand then, why the provincial government claims the south Island is in a drought. Our precipitation for the month of June was slightly above normal and we haven’t had the typical July weather so far for the Island. The Jump Lake reservoir, where Nanaimo sources its drinking water, is full – higher than it was at this time last year.

But the province announced Level 4 drought conditions for the region, or extremely dry conditions. Level 4 carries voluntary conservation, restriction and regulatory response to deal with a water supply that is “insufficient to meet socio-economic and ecosystem needs,” according to the province’s drought information website.

The government points to rapid snowmelt, early record temperatures and sparse spring rainfall (remember that heat wave in April?) for our current drought conditions.

According to the provincial government, flows on the Cowichan and Koksilah rivers are in the bottom percentiles. The Englishman River near Parksville is not much better. Nanaimo River is in summer flow level and city officials as well as industry are monitoring the water level. All across the southern tip of the Island, rivers are closed to fishing.

With forecasts continually predicting cool and wet, it’s hard to understand why our waterways are in such bad shape. Surely that muddy trail I walked today indicates that there’s plenty of water? That’s what I found myself thinking as I drove back to Nanaimo under skies threatening rainfall. But out in my backyard garden, I remembered back to that April heat wave and how quickly the ground dried out after just a bit of water.

Even in the last few weeks, the garden couldn’t go more than a couple of days without rain or water. The plants sagged and wilted as the soil rapidly dried out. In the forest, where keeners with green thumbs are not available to douse every living thing with a bucket of water, the plants, trees and earth dry out even faster.

Scientists and forecasters go through a lot of science to arrive at their conclusions in regards to water and drought. I have no reason to doubt the quality of their predictions. In the very least, conserving water will not hurt any resident. Nanaimo is currently at a Stage 2 restriction – folks can still water their lawns on odd or even days, and vegetable gardens are exempt from restrictions. That doesn’t seem onerous to me. In fact, our water system would be better off if more people were more considerate with their water use – drought or no drought.

For more information on water conservation, please click here.


Just Posted

Nanaimo is the first city in Canada to subscribe to the Chonolog environment photo-monitoring system, which allow residents to contribute photos of habitat restoration projects that are converted to time lapse sequences showing environmental changes. (Chris Bush/ News Bulletin)
Nanaimo residents invited to be citizen scientists by sharing habitat restoration photos

Nanaimo first city in Canada to sign up for Chronolog environment photo monitoring service

Regional District of Nanaimo is seeking input from the public for its transit redevelopment strategy. (News Bulletin file)
Public input sought as RDN works on transit redevelopment strategy

RDN wants to know where people want bus stops, shelters and pedestrian and cycling connections

Douglas Holmes, current Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District chief administrative officer, is set to take on that position at the Regional District of Nanaimo come late August. (Submitted photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo’s next CAO keen to work on building partnerships

Douglas Holmes to take over top administrator role with RDN this summer

(PQB News file photo)
Fireworks report highlights enforcement challenges for Regional District of Nanaimo

Director: ‘I just think it’s wasting everybody’s time’

Neighbours fight a small late-night bush fire with garden hoses and shovels in Cinnabar Valley on June 5. They couldn’t get help from local fire services because the fire was located in an area under B.C. Wildfire Services jurisdiction. (Photo courtesy Muriel Wells)
Nanaimo residents on edge of city limits left to put out bush fire themselves

Cinnabar Valley residents tackle fire with hoses and buckets for two and a half hours

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps near Nanaimo

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Most Read