Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) [2013-2015]

Background: CVRD encompasses a large area of 3,475 square kilometres, including four municipalities, nine electoral areas and 34 different utilities. The project focuses on the Shawnigan Lake North Water System, which is used by 2,000 residents (though water is drawn from the lake, which is used by a population of 7,000). The impacts of climate change warms the lake, affecting water quality and increasing demand; population growth and seasonal use also increases demand, which leads to fluctuations in flow and inconsistent chlorine dosing. The formation of disinfection by-products (DBPs) and aesthetic issues are also problems. Current treatment approaches do not adequately address parasite inactivation or removal, and very little space is available to upgrade the treatment facility.

Scope of Work: Our work here involves research on national and international models of devolved water governance, as well as a project seeking to understand climate and watershed land-use impacts on chemical and microbial quality of source water and community vulnerability. We are also evaluating several alternative treatment technologies with the Mobile Water Treatment Research Laboratory (see below) to compare performance, operating costs and practicality. The goal of the project is to determine the most feasible and sustainable water treatment alternatives for Shawnigan Lake and similar communities.

Click here to open a graphic that explains the technical aspects of this project in greater detail.  

Progress/Updates: From November 2014 to June 2015, RES’EAU conducted a pilot plant study to evaluate the efficacy and operability of treatment options (nanofiltration, ion exchange and direct filtration) to disinfect and remove organics from the water while improving taste and reducing odour compounds. Results are expected this summer. Community engagement consisted of two public meetings, an open house at the mobile pilot plant and private tours of the plant for local decision makers.

As part of the same Community Circle initiative, RES’EAU participated in a process to improve the governance capacity of small and First Nations communities by developing recommendations for water management in the CVRD region. Prof. Leila Harris of UBC noted that a task force involving 55 local organizations held three workshops as well as other consultations. RES’EAU participated at every level of the consultation process. The task force made several recommendations to the CVRD board:

  • Establish a Regional Water Authority
  • Transition to the RWA under CVRD leadership
  • Provide funding through a CVRD watershed protection service
  • Apply watershed-thinking and a risk-based approach


RES’EAU Scientific Director Dr. Madjid Mohseni addresses the community in Shawnigan Lake
RES'EAU's Mobile Water Treatment Research Laboratory deployed at Shawnigan Lake