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23rd October 2022
continued from Part One...

The regional district also offers rebates of up to $1,000 for water users who install rainwater harvesting systems.

The regional district published a business case for a watershed protection service in March 2022. It laid out a series of next steps including ongoing dialogue with the shíshálh Nation and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw, providing regular public updates on progress, and developing annual budget proposals based on planned water-related activities beginning with the 2023 budget. It also lists the intention to work more collaboratively with other governing authorities.

“The thing that’s missing is funding support for smaller local governments,” Rosenboom said, adding that many issues need to be weighed when making these decisions.

“What is the financial sustainability of us wanting to move all these projects forward at the same time, because we don’t think the community might be able to absorb it financially,” he asked.

6. More government collaboration to tackle B.C.’s water problems

Managing water means working across different jurisdictions of the province, First Nations, municipalities and private landowners. Right now, that’s not exactly happening.

Gibsons Mayor Bill Beamish told The Narwhal last year complaints about contamination are not passed onto the town from the province.

“The ministry comes in and investigates and files a report on a public website. There’s no sharing of that information with the town or the [regional district],” Beamish said.

“When you have an investigation of a contaminated site within our watershed, which affects our drinking water, we would like to be informed.”

Gibsons, which is working with the regional district and shishalh and Squamish nations, wants the province to support a regional watershed governance model.

7. Protecting B.C. old-growth forests and restoring logging roads

“Science is clear on this: we have lost our best natural protection – the forest cover — against flooding, landslides, and droughts,” Alila from the University of British Columbia said.

Forest canopy shade keeps snow for longer, which melts slower and infiltrates the soil and replenishes groundwater reservoirs, he explained. This feeds channels during the driest parts of the year.

Without the canopy snow melts faster and is quickly delivered “out to the ocean.”

Logging roads also cause runoff to be drained into ditches, which then run into streams. While this is done to prevent landslides — which logging also increases the likelihood of — it means runoff that normally saturates the soil is drained out of the watershed, Alila said.

He also said second-growth trees, planted after logging older trees, consume as much as 50 per cent more soil than older forests.

“The ways we have been managing the forests for a century and counting, especially more so over the last several decades, do not portray a government or an industry that appreciates the role of forests in mitigating against natural calamities such as floods, landslides and droughts,” he said.

He advocated for single tree selection, strip cutting, and smaller patch cutting rather than clear-cutting.

8. Not only looking at the B.C. weather forecast, but considering the context

Alila explained that with two back-to-back La Nińa years, which are wetter and cooler in the fall and winter, that means snowpack melts later and quicker — once again, not giving snowmelt a chance to infiltrate the soil. Combined with the atmospheric river, which wiped out snow at high altitudes, this meant even more melted slow was a “lost opportunity” to recharge groundwater.

As well, hot summers cause wildfires, which leads to dry, burnt soil that is not very good at absorbing rain and snow.

While there are many things happening at once, he said there is “no excuse for not being better prepared for this year’s drought.” All of the conditions that he laid out were known, he argued. As well, the impact of logging on soil has been demonstrated.

“Didn’t we know that we lost so much snow from mid to high elevation during the November 2021 flood event? We do – there is data that demonstrates this. Don’t we know that global warming is causing more rain and less snow as time progresses? We do – this is very well-established science,” he said.

“It is clear government agencies at all levels are not using the rather well-established science to better manage water during the driest periods of the year.”

9. Bolder action on climate change and climate resiliency

We know, end with the easy one, right? But for Connelly of Sunday Cider, every local response to the drought has to be grounded in pursuing climate resiliency.

“This is climate change staring us in the face,” he told The Narwhal over the phone. He has options available to conserve water to keep his business running, but some are just “band-aid solutions” and larger action is needed, he said. He also said things are a little easier for him than some other businesses — cider uses less water than beer or wine and apple trees are quite hardy.

The province has a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 per cent below 2007 levels by 2030. But for years, British Columbia’s emissions have been rising. In 2020, net emissions showed a dip at 63.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is 3 per cent lower from 2007 levels. But Jens Wieting, senior forest and climate campaigner for Sierra Club BC, suspects this is because many countries experienced temporary reductions in emissions due to the onset of COVID-19.

Sierra Club BC, represented by Ecojustice lawyers, was in the B.C. Supreme Court on Oct. 4 suing the B.C. government for failing to report on whether its climate plans will achieve key greenhouse gas emissions targets.

“In B.C., we have to stop acting with one hand to reduce emissions and with the other, increase emissions by allowing and subsidizing new fossil fuel development,” Wieting said, pointing to the LNG Canada terminal expected to be complete in 2025 as an example. He also wants to see more investment in habitat restoration and supporting Indigenous governance.

For Connelly, climate resiliency is connected to building a “food sovereign” community, specifically subsidizing and supporting food farmers. He doesn’t want the Sunshine Coast to rely on shipments — he points to how catastrophic flooding in B.C. last year halted the delivery of basic necessities like food.

“Climate is coming for your booze now,” he joked wryly.

“This is climate change, this is real, we need to do something. So let’s invest in solutions.”