Adapted from POLIS Watershed Governance Dispatch Jan 2019

As an innovative and leading example of local water protection, the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) has secured sustainable funding through taxation to establish a Drinking Water and Watershed Protection Service to support regional programs related to drinking water and watershed protection. This service will:

  • Increase the level of knowledge about drinking water sources to support the long-term sustainability of water resources.
  • Support better collaboration among various water providers, users, and stewards.
  • Develop watershed management plans that will characterize risks to water supply and water quality.
  • Provide information for land-use planning and determining urban growth, as well as information on infrastructure and water utility needs across the region.
  • Prioritize actions to address risks, such as flood protection, drought response, improving water conservation and stewardship, or emergency water supply plans.
  • Provide ongoing, sustainable support for critical management and partnership groups, such as the Cowichan Watershed Board and local stewardship organizations.

Drinking water and watershed management are consistently identified as priority issues in the region—similar to many communities across British Columbia and Canada. In the Cowichan, increasing water use and a changing climate impact watershed health. Water quality and quantity challenges exist across the region’s 16 watersheds, with numerous water users operating independently and in an uncoordinated way. Establishing support for better collaboration among these various water users and purveyors, as well as improved cooperation among decision-makers, will catalyze a more comprehensive and integrated approach to watershed health. The service makes new and enhanced forms of collaboration possible, and allows for better sharing of re-sources, data, and support for freshwater sustainability.

How did this occur?

The Drinking Water and Watershed Protection Service Establishment Bylaw allows the CVRD to requisition up to the greater of $750,000 or $0.045 per $1000 of taxable value within the service area. The annual budgets will be established by the CVRD Board based on the annual work plans and long-term strategy.

The Watershed Governance Dispatch series highlights leading practical examples and recent developments related to the implementation of watershed governance. This regular series helps inform decision-makers and practitioners, and links to the ongoing work of the POLIS Water Sustainability Project and the winning conditions for watershed governance outlined in “A Blueprint for Watershed Governance in British Columbia,” available at