Salmon fighting their way up the Puntledge River, a challenge with low water levels
THE WEEK: As Puntledge River goes lower, Colorado drinking recycled wastewater
This week, it’s all about water. How much do we have? How much are we going to get? And, should we be wasting potential drinking water by flushing it into the Strait of Georgia?
Record low water levels in the Mississippi River, that nation’s most important transportation waterway, have caused ships to run aground and last month backed up 3,000 barges full of corn, soybeans and other goods for export. Further west, the shrinking Colorado River threatens everything from drinking water supplies to California’s agriculture industry that supplies us with winter vegetables and fruit.
It’s a similar story across Europe where the worst drought in 500 years has rivers running dry.
With the amount of rain that falls annually on Vancouver Island, you might think we have an abundance of water and that we’ll never have to worry about a shortage of drinking water. Think again, if this fall’s precipitation levels are any harbinger of the future.
We wrote about low water levels in Comox Lake recently and the situation has not gotten better. It’s gotten worse. The Puntledge River flow is so low now that the BC Hydro powerhouse is no longer operating.
Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson says that this fall’s drought has broken the company’s 55-year record of continuously generating electricity on the Punteldge River. But thanks to an integrated provincial hydroelectric system, the Comox Valley will have an adequate supply of power.
That means we can still put up Christmas lights, but our fishy friends aren’t quite so lucky. Hydro has deployed fish salvage crews at key parts of the river. If the river flows go any lower, it will expose salmon eggs in the gravel, which is potentially good news but only for seagulls and eagles.
The company has reduced water flow into the river down to 9 cubic meters per second. It has been at 11.5 m3/s, and the minimum fish habitat flow below the powerhouse and fish hatchery is 15.6 m3/s.
“The one positive about having the river flows so low this fall is that salmon, like chum, which typically spawn after Oct. 1, have spawned in areas near the middle of the river versus the entire riverbed, so without latest river flow reduction, those eggs should remain wetted,” Watson wrote in a report this week.
Still not concerned? Watson says the snowpack in the upper Comox Lake Watershed is less than 25 percent of normal for this time of year. This week’s storms will help, but they aren’t expected to return snowpacks to normal.
Is it too soon for the Comox Valley to consider redirecting wastewater into our drinking water supply?
Sounds yucky, right? But several U.S. cities are already extracting water from their sewage treatment plants and sending it directly to people’s kitchen taps. Recently, Colorado became the first state to adopt direct potable reuse regulations.
The Coors Brewing Company may soon have to drop it’s slogan, “Brewed with Pure Rocky Mountain Spring Water.” According to an Associated Press report, the 105 West Brewing Company in Castle Rock, CO, is already serving beer made with water from recycled sewage and getting no complaints from customers.
Making wastewater potable involves disinfecting it with ozone gas or ultraviolet light and then “filtering it through membranes with microscopic pores.” And it’s an expensive process, especially if new infrastructure is required.
But it looks like the future. The Associated Press reports that Florida, California and Arizona are considering similar regulations and that other states have direct potable reuse projects underway.
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The Week: Give us full transparency when paid ‘volunteers’ work with CV students
Faith-based volunteers can contribute positively to the educational experience in our public schools but everyone must be perfectly clear about who they are, what they can and cannot do and school administrators must monitor their activity closely and consistently
What’s dire: the lack of Comox subdivisions or climate change and gradual deforestation?
A Comox Valley developer is suing the Town of Comox because his permits to cut down trees and build more single-family homes haven’t been issued as fast as he’s wanted and because the town wants a wider walking trail through the property
The Week: Ken Grant fined by Elections BC and Parksville confronted by development, water issues
Another Comox Councillor was fined by Elections BC for violating BC elections laws, plus Parksville’s water supply is unable to meet provincial requirements for summer water flow in the Englishman River let alone provide water for a proposed 800-unit development
THE WEEK: Let the people have a larger voice at Comox Valley council meetings
Making it easier for citizens to speak directly to municipal councils might increase public interest in local government, which in turn might encourage more registered voters to actually cast a ballot
The Week: Comox, Cumberland appointments pass, but no word on Courtenay … yet
Cumberland and Comox municipal councils approve their mayor’s annual appointments, but Courtenay was a no show at its inaugural meeting. Is there conflict behind the scenes?
The Week: Valley councils begin new terms, but will Comox ignore voters?
Dr. Jonathan Kerr topped the polls with voters, but will that resonate at the Comox Town Council as it is poised to approve new Mayor Nicole Minions’ appointments and assignments?
THE WEEK: Water supplies are good, fireworks are bad and where Daniel Arbour lives
Despite the long drought this summer, Comox Valley water system supplies have not been threatened; the BC Wildfire Service has banned fireworks this year and clarifying Daniel Arbour’s place of residence
Let’s put one of the craziest Comox Valley elections into the history book, and then close it
It was weird. But when the sun rose on Oct. 16, Comox Valley voters had made it clear they liked the direction charted by our local governments. In the municipalities, they elected all but two incumbents. In most races, the vote was a definite pat on the back for a job well done.
A few random items as the 2022 election comes to a close
Long-time public official Bronco Moncrief dies, Manno Theos hangs out in Greece, and Daniel Arbour reacts to lies about his campaign finances
Who’s behind the shadowy Comox Valley political action groups? We shine some light
We dig deeper into what may have driven the darker, angry tone in this year’s municipal elections, and we shine a light on the shadowy political action groups and the Big Money players who have taken an interest in the Comox Valley
Perhaps it is also time that instead of planning to retrieve drinking water from sewage we consider not mixing drinking water with human waste in the first place. Humanure is a potential resource that we turn into a health hazard.
It would also be an excellent idea for us (i.e. all members of the G20) to reduce our GHG emissions and fossil fuel production.
There is one good news thing for salmon on the west coast a large portion of the fish farms will be removed by the summer of 2023. Over 40 years of destruction to the ocean enviroment and all the things that live in it may be on the way out. The recovery will take more time than it did to make the mess.
Many of the smaller creeks and rivers around the Courtenay/Comox/Royston area that have salmon hatcheries associated with them have had poor returns this year because of the low water situation.
The proposed ground water bottling plant for the Black Creek area is still under consideration by the CVRD and the BC Government. No one knows how much ground water we have in the area or the origin of the water.
I have been following our water supply for about 14 years, since volunteering for the 2008 CVRD sustainability study. I was clueless about the management of our primary water supply. I am dismayed that our local governments allow BC Hydro to drain Comox Lake until there is a crisis.
I’m vacationing in the Palm Springs area of California where 90 percent of the golf courses here are irrigated from the Colorado River and sprinklers run during the day. California had negotiated water rights at the expense of neighbouring states Arizona and New Mexico and Mexico. We drive past a turf farm with large sprinklers operating during the day. I have never seen such water misuse, in a desert.
So it is the same situation in the Comox Valley.BC Hydro has the rights to 84 percent of the Comox Lake water and when it rains as it always does, they waste it in huge quantities, spilling it down the Puntldege River.
It’s not about conservation, it’s about negotiation.
Thanks once again for coming out of retirement to create local awareness of this most important international topic, that is affecting even us here in the CV, an otherwise Mecca for fresh water. When I was a young boy, more that 70 yrs ago, it was said that one day water, more than oil or precious metals would be the most valuable commodity. Planning for that day is long overdue; Canada, with 20% of the world fresh water and less than 1% of the population should immediately move into an international grid system for water distribution with our Southern neighbour.
And a quick glance upward will tell how how much the Queneesh Glacier has shrunk in recent years. Much of our drinking water comes from there into the streams, then into Comox Lake and then …. It may not be long before we deal with our own serious droughts.
There is a LOT more we can do to conserve water — you might be interested in this 2016 issue of the Watershed Sentinel, where reporter Susan MacVittie went on a tech tour of German water treatment, See “Wonderful Wasser” https://watershedsentinel.ca/wp-content/uploads/mp/files/issues/files/watershedsentjanfeb2016-e.pdf