Water is arguably the most significant way that climate change is making itself felt here and around the globe, with changes in timing, quantity and quality of water in all its forms.
2oC is often talked about as the danger threshold of global average warming, a threshold discussed as early as this 1975 paper by economist and Yale professor William Nordhaus. At the recent Paris Conference, Canada helped to set 1.5oC as an aspirational target. However the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations states that "BC will have greater warming and changes in its precipitation regime than the global average" and that even with "emission scenarios with significant reduction in emissions, the warming is 2 to 3oC by the 2080s". This puts BC beyond the oft-cited danger threshold well within the lifetime of today's toddlers, a sobering thought given that any emission reductions still seem a long way off as federal and provincial governments plan for new oil pipelines and LNG projects.
In 2015 BC had very little snow, followed by a summer with many rivers, lakes and streams too low and too hot for fish. Despite average and even above average snow levels in the province this past winter, it's looking like fish are going to be in hot water again. A record hot April dropped snow levels dramatically. Looking at the graphs one wonders whether we'll be any better off in terms of snow-fed flows than last year. (Click images for larger versions)
We have two tools to help give salmon and other fish a fighting chance against warming waters:
- maximize groundwater baseflows in surface waters by not drawing down the water table with our own groundwater use (hence the vital task of convincing the BC government not to hand out 30-year groundwater licences that fail to consider environmental flows), and;
- provide shade by preserving or restoring riparian vegetation.
Wild salmon are an important food source from the marine environment to the tops of west coast watersheds; sharks, orcas, seals, people, invertebrates, fish, bears, wolves, herons, eagles, the list of species that rely on wild salmon goes on and on...even the forests themselves, the trees and plants in salmon-bearing watersheds are fertilized by the migrations of salmon back from the sea. Not to mention the economic importance of food, recreational, and commercial fishing in BC.
With the salmon foremost in mind, WaterWealth will be doing water quality monitoring throughout the summer. We will be gathering data on temperatures, oxygen levels and other metrics that we hope will help us help the salmon have a fighting chance.
If this aspect of our work appeals to you, we are always looking for volunteers to get involved! Or if volunteering isn't in the cards for you this summer, we're always looking for donations too! Together we can take care of our shared home waters.
BC Climate maps image: Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, accessed 26 May 2016
Wolf with Salmon image: Raincoast Conservation Foundation, accessed 26 May 2016