Coquitlam Watershed Tour

Today’s blog is centered around WATER — the tasteless, odorless substance that is essential to all known forms of life. About 72% of the human body is water and need about 2-3 litres of water (including food sources) to avoid dehydration.

Currently about 1 billion people in the world do not have access to clean drinking water. In terms of available drinking water per capita, Canada would be the No 1 country. With an every increasing global population and shrinking water supply, I won’t be surprised that water could one day be tomorrow’s oil.


The Greater Vancouver Regional District manages three forested watershed to provide Lower Mainland with clear and pure drinking water. The watersheds are closed to the public to safeguard the water supply. However, every summer, the GVRD organizes free bus and walking tours to the scenic watershed. We registered for one such tour this summer to the Coquitlam Watershed. This is a 3.5 hr bus tour.

We board the bus from the Town Centre Stadium Parking Lot. The tours were always full and one has to register weeks in advance.


It took 25 minutes to get from the Coquitlam City to the Coquitlam Lake. It is located in a remote area out of bounds to visitors. The Coquitlam Lake is huge — 0.5km width and stretches for a full 12km. That is equivalent to about 50 Stanley Parks.

The Coquitlam Watershed is part of the network of three watersheds in the Lower Mainland. All were located north of the city. The other two watershed are Capilano and Seymour.


The water quality in the three watershed are high. One of the measurement used to determine water quality is NTU which is basically the measurement of turbidity (cloudiness or haziness of water). The recommended minimum NTUs in GVRD is 5 or lower but the turbidity here is less than 1 NTU. Despite that the water in lower mainland is treated with ozone and chlorine as additional safeguard.


The tour made a total of five stops all over the watershed. At each of the stop, there is an information board and the GVRD staff covered water issues such as corrosion, the functions of GVRD, water plans.

At one of the stop, the guide pointed the tallest Douglas Fir in Canada. It is about 94 meters tall (as tall as the Pacific Center in Vancouver) and about 800 years old. The top part of the tree had died. The tree was way too tall to capture on camera and the base of the tree was down in a valley. So, this is the best I could do … take a picture of the top part of a dead tree.


We were also educated on the corrosion that happens in the watershed. The picture below showed the power of a landslide near the watershed. The power of the landslide cut a deep path through old growth forest. You need to be there to see the scale of the damage.


The Buntzen Lake was filled with water from the Coquitlam Lake through a tunnel built in the early 20th century. It was amazing looking at photos of the way the tunnel were built in those days. Logs and building materials were transported using flumes — no dump trucks used.

BC Hydro had 80% rights to the water in Coquitlam Lake while the GVRD owns the remaining rights. I am not sure how they divy up these rights.


One of the mandate of the GVRD is that they need to decommision 10km of roads in the watershed every year. This is to return the watershed to it’s natural state. Below is the picture of what used to be a road. They could have just closed off the road but I am glad that they made every effort to tear up the road and planted trees over them.


One of the favourite part of the tour is a walk through some old growth. The trees were huge and many takes at least five people holding hands to encircle it.


There are wildlife in the watershed. The guide pointed out the scratches on the bark of this tree indicating presence of bears. They normally roam the watershed on colder days.


Coming out from this trip, I am glad that we had pure and clean drinking water. I believe we are blessed even though many of us take the quality, and quantity, for granted.

For Lower Mainlanders, this is a good trip to sign up for especially if you have kids. Best of all it is free — you don’t have to pay for it. Check it out on this site.

This Post Has 0 Comments

  1. Zoe

    oh thanks for your wonderful posts. It’s great to see pictures from back home 🙂

  2. joe


    thank you very much, It was a moving write.

    you teach me how the water i have drinked pure.

    I will make a reservation right now.

  3. mandeep

    hi im mandeep im going to butzen lake for a feild trip with my class on friday its so kool!

  4. Bobby

    Hey, nice write. It really helped me understand more about water in our community.

  5. Stephen Montgomery

    Hi there,

    I’d like more information about the times and days in which tours are given of the Coquitlam watershed. Hope to hear from you soon. Thanks.


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