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How We Got to a Watershed Plan 

As a first step towards better water management and resilience in the Koksilah Watershed, Cowichan Tribes and the provincial government committed to a scoping process that took place between 2022-2023.  A Steering Committee (SC) was struck to oversee this process, with a workplan and a Terms of Reference as defined by an Interim Letter of Agreement between Cowichan Tribes and the Province of BC (FLNRORD). The SC included Cowichan Tribes and Provincial representatives, as well as advisors from POLIS Water Sustainability Project, University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre, Cowichan Watershed Board, the BC Freshwater Legacy Initiative, and BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. 


Despite the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Steering Committee remained committed to this project, maintaining a bi-weekly meeting schedule without exception. 

The SC undertook 3 distinct initiatives that laid the foundation for the Xwulqw’selu Watershed Plan: 

1. Technical Assessments: External consultants were hired to assess the potential causes of low flows in the Koksilah Watershed and identify technical data gaps, and provide an overview of potential water storage options.  See reports.  

2. Outreach & Engagement: Cowichan Tribes and the Province sought to understand the varied community interests and uses in the Watershed, surface the most urgent issues facing the Watershed, and understand how people in the Watershed might work together towards a shared vision. Results of the interviews and survey were summarized into a set of recommendations for the future planning process. See report. 

3. Cowichan Tribes Internal Engagement: Cowichan Tribes talked with many of their knowledge holders and members to: 

  • identify technical gaps and probable causes of seasonal drought and flooding;  

  • identify needs and concerns in the Koksilah watershed as they relate to water use; 

  • identify relevant traditional knowledge, use information and goals/objectives of Cowichan Tribes members as they relate to the Koksilah watershed; and  

  • scope the feasibility of a water sustainability plan or other regulatory tools under the WSA to address and achieve Cowichan Tribes goals and objectives. 

The Steering Committee’s scoping process allowed Cowichan Tribes and Provincial representatives to explore a wide range of water and land use topics and build both a common understanding of the issues and challenges facing the watershed and a more informed perspective of the cultural and organizational context of their partners at the table.  The Steering Committee learned together through discussions, and from guest speakers including hydrologists, foresters, agrologists, and biologists as well as cultural and governance experts.

The Steering Committee agreed that a Water Sustainability Plan should be developed for the Xwulqw’selu and made consensus recommendations about the key outcomes and priorities for a watershed planning process.  

Following Cowichan Tribes and Provincial approval of the Steering Committee's summary and recommendation report, The province authorized a Ministerial Order designating the Xwulqw'selu - Koksilah Watershed a water sustainability planning area. This makes the the Xwulqw’selu a first-of-it’s-kind initiative in BC. 

This was a significant achievement and a milestone that opened the door to substantial work ahead for the development of a formal Government-to-Government Agreement, and a watershed plan inclusive of a water sustainability plan. 

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