The ‘New Normal’ looks pretty hot and dry

In case you missed it, we had the first spatter of rain in weeks last Thursday

  • Jun. 22, 2015 7:00 p.m.

In case you missed it, we had the first spatter of rain in weeks last Thursday, and then it was back to ‘the new normal,’ as the Cowichan Valley Regional District is calling it.

Touting its ‘New Normal’ website, the CVRD issued a June 12 media release. “Drought and flooding are the ‘new normal’ in the Cowichan region, and are putting our watersheds and communities’ water supply under extreme stress,” the release says.

“The good news is Cowichan residents, farmers and business owners now have access to a wide variety of practical, effective solutions to do what they can to minimize the impacts of these very serious problems, thanks to the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s NewNormalCowichan.ca website.”

But you can only put so much lipstick on a porcine reality, especially the reality of Canada’s response to climate change, which seems to be: ‘get out the lawn chairs, tilt down the straw hat, and mix another margarita.’

Thirteen of the hottest years on record have occurred since 2000, with 2014 the very hottest. Critics say Prime Minister Stephen Harper has fought every effort to put teeth into the nation’s climate change measures.

A Climate Action Network Europe report (produced in partnership with Germanwatch) ranked Canada 58th out of 61 countries on the global warming file. Canada “shows no intention of moving forward with climate policy and therefore remains the worst performer of all industrialized countries.”

Last fall, the liberal American magazine The New Republic called Harper and his Australian counterpart Tony Abbot the “earth’s worst climate villains.”

Increasingly local levels of government are accepting the consequences of climate change, which some might be interpreting as giving in to the inaction of senior levels of government and the global community on the issue in the bigger picture.

In essence, the stance of local governments seems to be: We can’t change it, so we have to start changing how we serve our residents in the era of climate change.

“Gone are the days when we could expect some significant rainfall in the drier months leading up to summer and trust that our aquifers and lakes would be adequately supplied with water” Chair Jon Lefebure is quoted in the CVRD release.

“The summer dry season has extended on both ends and we can no longer count on a predictable snowpack and reliable rain to keep our watersheds healthy. This NewNormalCowichan website is meant to give everyone a clear picture of what ‘living the new normal’ looks like.”

Nor is the CVRD the only local level of government cautioning that the ‘times they are ‘a changing.’

Earlier this month the province forecast water supply shortages on Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and Haida Gwaii unless there’s significant rainfall before the end of June.

Some of those areas are already experiencing Level 3 drought conditions, which call for voluntary water use cuts of 20 per cent or more from municipal, agricultural and industrial users. Further water conservation measures may be ordered, including suspension of industrial water permits, if drought conditions worsen, the province warns.

The Vancouver Island Coast Conservation Society is calling for higher levels of cooperation and coordination between local and regional levels of government to secure water supplies and protect the environment during increasingly dry seasons.

“At this critical time, when our water supply is already restricted here on Vancouver Island’s east coast, we need our political leaders to take initiatives that will see water supplies secured across political boundaries,” says VICCS President Laurie Gourlay.

“We need our watersheds managed and protected by an independent conservation authority that is mandated to ensure that watershed resources and ecosystems are sustainably managed for present and long-term needs.”

VICCS sites ‘climate change, El Nino and unusual weather conditions’ as the precipitating causes for better coordination and cooperation when it comes to managing regional water supplies.