Restriction on water use in the Koksilah River watershed
August 20, 2019
By Mike Wei
The Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) issued a Fish Population Protection (FPP) order to cease diversion and use of water for forage crops from the Koksilah River (see FLNRORD News Release https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2019FLNR0215-001616). The Koksilah River, located near the City of Duncan on the east coast of Vancouver Island, is the main tributary to the Cowichan River.
I believe this marks the first time a FPP order is issued under the new Water Sustainability Act (WSA) which came into effect in 2016. The order allows the Ministry to restrict water use based on criteria other than senority of date of precedence in the water licence (i.e., First-in-Time; First-in-Right (FITFIR)). The order is also unique in that it includes, for the first time in BC's history, groundwater users that are hydraulically connected to the stream.
In situations where low flow may significantly affect a fish population in a stream, especially if the water shortage is temporary, a Fish Population Protection order (Section 88 of the WSA) will be a viable tool that the Ministry will consider.
We are beginning to see the impact of the Water Sustainability Act in addressing a water shortage.