West Howe Sound Watershed

The SCCA West Howe Sound Watershed Protection Project aims to preserve the forested ecosystems on the southeast slopes of Mount Elphinstone in the West Howe Sound Aquifer Recharge Areas.

Brief History

The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) and Town of Gibsons supply potable water to approximately 30,000 full and part time residents on the Sunshine Coast. The primary source of freshwater is the Chapman/Gray Watershed system. 

Over time, increased demand (population growth) and recurring drought (climate change) have resulted in growing “water deficit.” To address this deficit, the SCRD is investigating groundwater sources and considering next steps to connect Aquifers to the primary Chapman Water System. 

Two Aquifers at the base of Mount Elphinstone in The West Howe Sound Watershed, currently yield large volumes of high-quality water that could make up more than 1/2 of the SCRD’s anticipated water deficit for the next 50 years. If this system is protected

Take Action

One of the ways you can help protect this watershed is by supporting the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association's research and advocacy work through a donation.

Why Protecting this Watershed Matters

Aquifers are underground layers of unconsolidated materials (gravel/sand), which become saturated with fresh water when rains and snowmelt absorb into the earth and infiltrate the gravel/sand layers. The process of fresh water filling the Aquifers is known as “Recharge.” 

The forested ecosystem on the southeast slopes of Mount Elphinstone in West Howe Sound is the main Recharge Area for these two prolific aquifers. The Recharge Area plays an integral role in moderating the aquifer systems by providing landcover which allows for the development of a rich understory, including roots, soils and mycorrhiza. The understory acts like a sponge, gradually absorbing and releasing water, slowing the release of snow melt, supporting soil structure and slope stability, mitigating against both drought and floods. 

Removal of the forest cover in the Aquifer Recharge Area (through industrial logging and gravel mining) dramatically disrupts the recharge process, results in less water entering the system, increases erosion, water turbidity, slope instability, landslides and can destroy the water system. Consequently, protection of the West Howe Sound Watershed, Mount Elphinstone Aquifer Recharge Area is paramount to ensuring a sustainable water supply system for the Coast. 

The problem is, while Community Watersheds in major urban centers in Victoria and Vancouver are protected, drinking water source areas in rural communities remain at risk. Like most rural regions in BC, the Sunshine Coast faces ongoing and increasing resource extraction (logging and mining) pressures in our drinking watersheds and recharge areas. Meanwhile, cumulative impacts on ecological values threaten entire species and imperil downstream communities. 

The good news is, over the last few years BC has implemented a suite of legislative and policy tools for watershed planning. This includes Drinking Water Protection Plans (under the Drinking Water Protection Act), Water Sustainability Plans (under the Water Sustainability Act), and revitalized land use planning frameworks (Cumulative Effects Assessment). The tools may be used to protect drinking water and build ecological and climate resilience


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