Balancing Water Levels and User Needs


Our Crofton mill is periodically on the frontlines of managing challenging conditions that climate change threatens to make increasingly common.

The mill draws its water supply from the Cowichan River, which is also the source of drinking water for the local community, and of vital fish habitat with particular importance to the Cowichan Tribes. The mill liaises closely with First Nations and community stakeholders to inform its operation, under provincial licence, of a weir that controls water flow into the river.

That task has to be a very precisely calibrated in drought years, of which 2019 was the worst yet experienced. The lake dropped below the level of the weir, and for a 21-day period water therefore had to be pumped from the lake to maintain minimum river flows. The mill had made a significant investment in installing, trialing and licensing pumping equipment a few years prior, in anticipation of a year like 2019.

This unprecedented response succeeded, as did mitigation of potential negative impacts on the lake. This included placing extensive navigational markers to warn the many boaters who use Cowichan Lake of new hazards that emerged as its level was temporarily drawn down for the benefit of the river.

Technical assessment and stakeholder input remains underway with respect to a new weir that will increase storage capacity in the lake, with a projected 2025 completion date. There was better snowpack and more spring rains in coastal BC in 2020, with the added encouraging sign of strong returns of Chinook salmon to the Cowichan River.

Would you like to learn more about our recent performance and our long-term vision? Visit the Sustainability Report page on our website.
There you can read our full 2019-2020 Sustainability Report, the four-page summary report, and our Practices and Perspective on-the-ground stories.