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‘Comox Valley is facing a severe water crisis’: BC Greens Valley candidate

Comox-Courtenay candidate Arzeena Hamir highlights effects of drought on local agriculture
Farmer and BC Greens candidate for Courtenay-Comox Arzeena Hamir highlighted the drought-related issues affecting numerous farmers across the Comox Valley and beyond during a press conference on June 18, 2024.

The BC Green Party held a press conference today, June 18, in to address the escalating drought situation in the Comox Valley. 

Farmer and BC Greens candidate for Courtenay-Comox Arzeena Hamir highlighted issues affecting numerous farmers and communities across the region and beyond.

"Our community's future hinges on responsible water and watershed management,” she said. “We need an amnesty for farmers to water crops during this drought, exemptions for water storage dugouts, and sustainable policies that prioritize conservation over corporate interests."

In a press release received by The Record on June 18, party leader Sonia Furstenau warned that this year's weather conditions could further strain the agricultural sector.

"The Comox Valley is facing a severe water crisis that threatens the region's agriculture, ecosystems, and way of life," said Furstenau. "With below-average rainfall, diminishing snowpack, and the potential loss of glaciers, urgent action is needed to ensure water security for farmers, residents, and the environment."

Farmers and environmental advocates have raised concerns about the legacy of farming and the survival of salmon runs and ecosystems in the region without immediate action. 

The BC Greens are proposing the following measures to address the drought including streamlining the approval process for water storage dugouts, prioritizing food production during the drought period to support food security, adopting sustainable water management policies, and having additional support for communities and farmers, among other things. 

“No one is protecting or prioritizing (the farmers’) interests,” said Hamir. “We must act now with both immediate and long-term solutions to address this drought and mitigate its impacts.”

“Farmers are not the oil and gas industry. We are not using water to frack; we are growing food for our community and yet farmers are being penalized and licensed similar to the oil and gas industry.”

The Comox Valley has experienced below-average rainfall for the last several years, leading to a multi-year drought.

The region's snowpack and glaciers, which typically replenish rivers and lakes during dry summers, are diminishing over time, exacerbating water scarcity. 

RELATED: Vancouver Island’s dramatically low snowpack raising ecological questions

The B.C. government introduced groundwater licensing requirements in 2016, but delays have slowed the process, leaving many water users in limbo, according to the party. This has added stress to Island farmers and communities already struggling with water scarcity. 

“The lack of government preparation and response to these conditions is unacceptable,” said Hamir. “The worsening drought conditions exacerbated by higher temperatures highlight the need for proactive measures. The provincial government must step up and take responsibility.

“It may be obvious to say we cannot live without water. We should not have to fight to protect our rivers and streams to ensure farmers have water for crops and clean drinking water.”

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