As you know, we started a stream sampling program last year. We have made the data from this program available to local stakeholders but our goal was always to have it included in the provincial groundwater database. This entails meeting certain standards of sampling and record-keeping. We are pleased to report that the province has deemed our methods and our data acceptable. Now our three streams are part of the province-wide database! We are pleased that our streams (Mud Bay Creek, Wilfred Creek and Cougar/Cowie Creek) are now included in this database. Many thanks to the community groups and individuals that have supported us in this effort.
Tracking Flow Rates
Building on this early success, we are starting an additional program. We will now be tracking flow rates for our three streams so that we will have quantity data to go along with our quality data.
How will we measure flow?
Our measuring tool is an ingenious device, basically a flat piece of plexiglass with metersticks attached. The device is held in the stream crosswise to the flow and the water pressure on one side causes the level to rise against the stick. On the other side the level drops due to the lower pressure. The difference in height on the two sides is a function of velocity at that point. Taking the velocity at numerous points across the stream allows us to calculate the volume of water flowing in the stream.
We can still use more volunteers to help with the added workload. More volunteers means more data. If you like the idea of wading around in our gorgeous, running streams in the hills of the Beaufort range with a plexiglass stick and a bunch of enthusiastic stream monitors, Drop us a line!
BECOME A CITIZEN-SCIENTIST WITH BWS! Last year we focused on QUALITY. We began a program to gather data for three local streams, monitoring and recording specific elements of stream health.
This year we’re adding QUANTITY. We will begin measuring and recording flow rates for those same three streams in addition to our quality measurements.
Establishing an organization like BWS requires a lot of meetings. We don’t mind meetings because they are an important communication tool. But our favourite times last year were when we left the meeting room to go into the woods. Our sampling locations are for the most part well off the beaten track. They aren’t far physically from civilization but they feel like it. They feel like they could be decades removed in time, back when we roamed the woods as kids. Or even hundreds of years before that, before Europeans came to the island.
Would you like to join us? This is your chance to become a full-fledged citizen-scientist! (Training provided). This is your chance to don hip waders and tromp around in the bush with other like-minded souls. At this point we are contemplating three streams, once a month. If you’re interested send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll notify you of the orientation session and any further training sessions.
On Sunday, April 7th, BWS, with the support of the Fanny Bay Community Association, held a town hall meeting to discuss our water supply. ( )The attendance exceeded our most optimistic expectations. We had hoped for 50 or 60 and there were 130 people who showed up. Clearly, folks are concerned about water. Pat Lapcevic and William Shulba each presented information about aquifers in general. The information was detailed and highlighted the complexity of water issues. After the two speakers finished their presentations a number of people stayed to discuss ideas and concerns. The topics raised included:
Possible fracking or mining
Salt water intrusion in wells and aquifers
Contamination by grey water or chemicals
Forestry practices within our watersheds
Industrial use of water: bottling, fish hatcheries, etc.
Lack of information on local aquifers and watersheds
Uncertainty as to the effects of climate change
Ground water mapping
Public ownership of watersheds to allow control of activities affecting water
Building relationships with governmental agencies and advocating for regulation
Rain water capture
If you missed the event, or if you’ve thought of other things that you would like to have discussed, please comment below, or go to our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/beaushedstewards/
We billed this event as an intro to aquifers and watersheds. The title of the event was “Well of Plenty or Edge of Crisis?” One common remark afterwards was that this question hadn’t been answered during the presentation. Unfortunately, while the title of the event represents the uncertainty surrounding our water in coming years, we don’t have the answer. Our intent was to stimulate conversation about the problem. Clearly we need more information and getting that information will take work. We’re encouraged that so many people want to know the answer too. We will continue, with your support, to press for answers, to gather data and to advocate for our watersheds.
Please consider joining the BWS and contributing your ideas and support.
We are pleased to present this informational session. Pat Lapcevic is Section Head, Water Protection in the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. She will lay the groundwork (pun intended) for our understanding of aquifers and watersheds. William Shulba is Freshwater Geoscientist with Islands Trust. He will be discussing the geological underpinnings specific to our area. Both are knowledgeable and engaging speakers. Jennifer Sutherst is a professional biologist and Estuary Co-ordinator with Project Watershed. She will be facilitating the discussions that will follow the two presentations.
On January 23rd two representatives of BWS were invited to participate in a half-day workshop called “K’omoks First Nation: An Introduction to Climate Change Adaptation”. Other participants included representatives of local governments and other stewardship groups. We found the workshop very productive and we hope to continue to work with all the groups involved, especially the K’omoks First Nation. We thank them for hosting and for including us.
It seems like the last few summers have been drier and hotter than we’re used to. People are saying this is the “new normal”. Unfortunately, the new normal is still a long ways off. For at least the next 50 years climate scientists are predicting constant change.
The Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium (PCIC) is a not-for-profit organization based at the University of Victoria that, among other things, provides climate change predictions for the Pacific and Yukon regions. Their work is to “provide regional climate stakeholders with the information they need to develop plans for reducing the risks associated with climate variability and change.”
Their predictions for the Comox Valley during the period 2010-2039 include a 3% increase in annual rainfall compared to the 1961 to 1990 Base Period. But there’s a catch: most of this additional rainfall will be in the fall and winter. The summers are predicted to have 10% LESS rainfall. And the decrease in rainfall will be accompanied by an annual temperature increase of between 0.4% and 1.3%.
For the period 2040-2069 the annual increase in rainfall is predicted to be 6% but, again, the summer change is projected to be 17% LESS than the Base Period.
It may be tempting to assume that the additional rainfall will be stored in our aquifers and allow us to get through the drier summers. But that may not be the case. How much of that rainfall will be absorbed into the ground instead of rushing down the creeks to join the Salish Sea? We don’t know. One thing we do know is that the changing climate is going to be a stress on our water systems. For those of us concerned with the quantity and quality of our drinking water, conservation needs to be a large part of our “new normal”.
After our hot, smoky summer, it might be a good time to take stock of our water situation. The trend seems to be towards longer, drier summers and there were reports this year of lower than normal well levels. We really don’t have enough data to draw conclusions but we are concerned: a dropping water table at the end of summer could be a warning sign. And one of the concerns for a coastal aquifer such as ours is saltwater intrusion. Here is how the BC website on Salt Water Intrusion describes it:
Saltwater intrusion occurs when saline (salty) water is drawn into a freshwater aquifer. Saltwater intrusion can affect one well, or multiple wells in an aquifer, making the water unpotable.
And the site goes on to advise:
Know the risks: Be aware of areas that are at risk of saltwater intrusion and educate property owners, site managers or water system operators that their well or locale could be affected.
Wells closest to the coast are at the highest risk. Many Fanny Bay wells are within metres of the ocean and some are actually drilled to depths BELOW sea level. It’s the weight of the water in the hills above us, the hydrostatic pressure, that keeps the saline boundary from creeping in. If the local water table drops too far we could start seeing saline intrusion.
There are many factors that can increase the risk of salt water intrusion. Increased population is one, as it results in increased water consumption. The population of Fanny Bay increased by 10% in the period between 2011 and 2016. Climate change is another. Climate models for our area predict increased rainfall but wetter winters might not be enough to keep our water table from dropping during longer summer droughts.
While we continue our efforts to learn more about our water supply it certainly won’t hurt for us all to begin developing good water conservation habits.
There are reports lately on the Fanny Bay Community Facebook page of well levels being lower than normal for this time of year. Some are going dry. This is not unprecedented. There were similar problems in 2015. Perhaps the time has come to take stock of how we use this resource we call water. The first thing to realize is that we all share the same aquifer. How we use water, how much water we use, affects our neighbours.
We are all drinking from the same cup but some of us simply happen to have longer straws.
The Beaufort Watershed Stewards are deeply concerned about the potential consequences of overconsumption. If we draw the aquifer down too far, at some point – we don’t know the exact point – the hydrostatic pressure from the aquifer is no longer enough to counter the pressure of the salt water trying to seep in. Most of us have wells not too far above sea level. The bottom of your well may be below sea level. The only thing standing between you and a salty well is hydrostatic pressure. Once salt water incursion happens the aquifer will no longer provide drinking water.
We need to be talking about water conservation. BWS is putting together some in depth educational material. We plan to sponsor a symposium on the problem in the near future. But in the meantime, every drop counts!