POLIS congratulates Cowichan Tribes and the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) on their recent joint decision to pursue a Water Sustainability Plan (WSP) for the Xwulqw’selu Watershed. The partners shared this exciting decision via joint press releases (here and here) on March 11th, 2022, following a 2021 Chief & Council Resolution and 2022 Ministerial Order.
The Xwulqw’selu WSP—the first of its kind in the province—will be precedent setting. It represents a significant opportunity to innovate and reform watershed management, and to realize co-governance and express Indigenous laws and knowledge alongside the provincial Water Sustainability Act. The WSP will be developed jointly by Cowichan Tribes and the Government of B.C., consistent with B.C.’s commitments to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. It will address significant, interlinked concerns in the watershed related to water availability, low flows, critical fish habitat, Indigenous cultural resources, and other identified issues.
Cowichan Tribes and FLNRORD arrived at the decision to pursue a WSP after two years of scoping work under an Interim Agreement to develop consensus recommendations on options and opportunities to address the growing water challenges in the Xwulqw’selu watershed. Since February 2020, Cowichan Tribes and provincial government partners have done extensive work together to gain a holistic and comprehensive understanding of the issues in the watershed and community priorities, and to build a collaborative government-to-government relationship.
Our team commends Cowichan Tribes and FLNRORD for their commitment, vision, and leadership to take action for a healthy and thriving Xwulqw’selu watershed for generations to come. This first WSP for B.C. will be a significant beacon for other regions and communities in the province, with wide-reaching learnings to share in the years ahead about innovations in planning, co-governance, and possibilities for reformed water and watershed management.
The POLIS team will continue to be active advisors and supporters of this effort going forward. Since 2020, POLIS’ Oliver M. Brandes has participated as a special advisor to the Xwulqw’selu Water Sustainability Plan Scoping Steering Committee and POLIS’ Rosie Simms has played a significant role, seconded to directly support Cowichan Tribes in advancing this important work.