By Lynn Moss
Aristotle noted almost twenty- five centuries ago that people value diamonds more than water and he thought that was anything but intelligent. Since that time, many other philosophers and economists have recognized the same and tried to understand. All life depends on water. We most urgently need a supply of good air and second, we need clean water to survive. The human body is on average 55 % to 60% water, depending on gender. All of our water comes from rain or snow and in this area, it is mainly rainfall. We are called the Wet Coast by other regions and we think we have lots of fresh water available but that is changing with climate change.
World climate scientists know that climate change is leading to different weather patterns- which are causing problems worldwide with droughts, wildfires, floods, hurricanes, etc. In our area, the pattern of rainfall is changing along with longer dryer spring, hotter and dryer summer and autumn weather. The CRD did a climate projections study back in 2017 which predicted that we would have shorter periods of heavy rain in winter and the other seasons would be longer and dryer and these projections are proving to be true.
To view the study, click on the image below
The average rainfall for the period of September 1 to December 18 2022 was only 49% of the average (average 1914 – 2021: 677.6mm).
In the same period in 2022 we had only half that (334.1mm ) and as of mid December 2022 we had only 19% of our normal average (average 1914 – 2021 293.8mm verses2022 actual rainfall of 55.2mm).
This data comes from the weekly water watch from the CRD website.
Without the slow even rainfall that we used to get in the fall and spring, the entire region from Sooke through Otter Point, Shirley, and Jordan River to Port Renfrew and the Rural Resource Lands could face lower water aquifers and drying. So what if the rainy season is shorter? You may have seen on the news that in many areas of the world there have been droughts where the fields and animals dry and die, the dams are empty, rivers dry up and fish die in the dry mud, there is no electricity as there is no water to drive the generators. Then the rains come. This should be cause for joy but it is the opposite as the ground is so dry it becomes hard and cannot take in all the sudden water so the water floods over the land and causes further problems. The plants and soil are so dry and damaged that they cannot hold back the floods and are swept away. The streams and rivers are fouled by all the debris and in towns and cities the drinking water can be poisoned by all the flooding water causing the sewers to get into the fresh water.
Luckily for us, we have not had damage to this extent. There was a long dry period in the area a few years back and when the rains did come, they were heavy which resulted in many people having flooded basements. Many of the flooded homes were in areas with a lot of paved roads, sidewalks and pads in yards so not places where the water could sink in where it splashed down. Instead it ran off to areas where it might sink into the ground or down drains. But the ground was not able to hold that much water long enough for it to be taken away in the footings drains so it entered the houses. It is wise to put some water down the footings drains clear out pipes after a long dry spell to dampen the ground so it can better take in any water during the first heavy rains. More people are now buying “overland water” insurance coverage. We have a good supply of rain and healthy watersheds to hold it in place
until it can sink down to the aquifers and be held there. Aquifers are just Nature’s water storage places. But times are changing for our rainfall and this could be problematic. We need to consider changing some of our assumptions about the abundance of fresh water.
One might think that since we are getting the same total amount of rain, or close enough for now, throughout the entire year, it doesn’t matter when it comes as long as it comes. The problem is that the streams and rivers and lakes can only hold so much and too much will spill over. It is the same with the aquifers, or Nature’s water storage. To understand this, think that perhaps you like a second cup of coffee or tea with a leisurely breakfast. If I pour you a cup, you are likely happy. If I pour the second cup directly on top of the first full cup, you are not so happy as it spills out and makes a mess and is gone when you really do want the second cup later. Aquifers can only hold so much and getting rain at intervals so it has a chance to sink down is much better than all at once in a short rainfall season, then little or nothing for the rest of the year.
We need to think about how we react and respond to rainfall. In a perfect world, rain belongs where it falls to sink in and to replenish the land, the vegetation, the animals, the fungi and the watercourses and all that lives in them. We all would rather not be working in the drizzle but it is good for everything but our attitudes, line drying laundry and trying to paint outdoors.
We need to learn about the changing climate conditions and the effects in our area and be aware that we may need to change our habits with water to successfully adapt. We use water for drinking, cooking, washing our vegetables, brushing our teeth and a number of other uses that require potable (clean drinkable) water. However, we also waste it watering lawns, power washing driveways, and a thousand other uses that do not require potable drinking water quality. Suggestions for water retention, wise use and saving tips are welcomed.