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 within a Water Sustainability Plan under the BC Water Sustainability Act. 

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

Why Protecting Aquifer Watersheds 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 two prolific aquifers - the Elphinstone-Gibsons-Granthams Aquifer 560 and the Langdale-Hopkins Aquifer 552. The forests in the recharge area play an integral role in moderating the aquifer system. Landcover 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 drought and flooding. 

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, aquifer recharge areas on Mount Elphinstone is paramount to ensuring a sustainable water supply system for the whole of the Sunshine Coast. 

The problem is, although the Community Watersheds in major urban centres of Vancouver and Victoria are protected, drinking water source areas in rural communities are not. Like most rural regions in BC, the Sunshine Coast faces ongoing and increasing resource extraction pressures in our drinking watersheds. Including, on Mt. Elphinstone where the growing conditions are very good, and thus the lands are heavily sought after for logging.

To solve this problem, the SCCA is working in collaboration with the Elphinstone Electors Association, Reed Road Forest Working Group,  UVIC-Environmental Law Centre, BC Watershed Security Coalition and local governments, to pursue a Water Sustainability Plan for the West Howe Sound Watershed.

Scroll to Top