Gabriola Island Watershed Map

< Return to DWWP

Our Water Regions  |  Drinking Water & Watershed Protection Program  |

RDN Watershed Map > Gabriola Island

DWWP Quick Facts

Gabriola is a populated island off the east coast of Nanaimo. It is approximately 53 sq km of low altitude terrain in the Coastal Douglas-fir Biogeoclimatic zone. There are no significant surface water sources on the island, so residents rely on groundwater and rainwater for domestic purposes.

Base LayerLand UseWater SupplyAquifersStreams & WaterbodiesFirst Nations SignificanceCommunity Programs

Base Layer

Land Use

On Gabriola Island, there is farm-related land use, park areas, rural residential properties, and a small village centre.

The Islands Trust is the agency that governs land use planning on Gabriola Island.

The RDN has an Agriculture Area Plan that contains a regional strategy for sustainable farming and related land uses.

Water Supply

Rural residents supply their own water from private wells (indicated by the pink dots on the map). The RDN wellSMART program provides information on private wells.

Additionally, many residents collect rainwater to supplement their water supply. See the RDN Rainwater Harvesting Incentive program for more information.

Education and networking opportunities exist for smaller water system operators, such as mobile home parks, restaurants, campsites, gas stations etc. The Water Purveyor Working Group meets annually, click here for details.

Island Health Authority is responsible for the oversight of drinking water quality in community water systems.

Team WaterSmart has information on what you can do to conserve and protect our water supply.


Gabriola's groundwater, derived solely from rainwater, is stored in many small independent aquifers made up of either shale or sandstone. The Gulf Islands do not have high mountains with winter snow, which store water well into the summer months. There are also few lakes and rivers, so the only real water storage is underground in cracks in the rocks. Water is stored in fractures or open spaces between the rocks and generally moves outward from the centre of the island.

There are two provincially mapped bedrock aquifers that underlie the entire island: 706, 709.

Groundwater monitoring is ongoing in this water region, with Provincial Observation Wells:

  • (#385) on Horseshoe Road monitors water levels in bedrock aquifer 709.
  • (#393) on Buttercup Road monitors water levels in bedrock aquifer 709.
  • (#197) off North Road monitors water levels in bedrock aquifer 709.
  • (#316) on Oyster Way monitors water levels in bedrock aquifer 709.

The RDN Phase 1 Water Budget Study (2013) looked at supply and demand on surface water resources in Water Region 7, based on available data.

Further study on recharge to the aquifers in this water region has been supported by the RDN through research under Dr. Diana Allen at Simon Fraser University. A model of groundwater recharge processes on the island was developed to run climate and pumping scenarios, to better plan for water availability on Gabriola. The report is available here .

The Provincial Water Protection and Sustainability Branch is responsible for groundwater legislation.

For more on groundwater and aquifers, see Aquifers 101.

Streams & Waterbodies

Surface water is stored in five small lakes and seven wetlands that together make up just over two percent of the area. Drainage occurs vertically into the aquifer and horizontally through the stream network into the Salish Sea. Coats Marsh is a rare Gulf Island wetland with rare stands of Coastal Douglas fir that is now protected as an RDN Regional Park. Two creeks run through the property and eventually connect to Hoggan Lake. Some residences on Gabriola have water licenses to extract surface water for their domestic needs.

A key stewardship group in this water region is the Gabriola Streamkeepers, who helped to map the creeks on the island.

The Province of BC is responsible for freshwater regulations, see the Water Sustainability Act for more information.

First Nations Significance

This water region is within the traditional territories of the Snuneymuxw First Nation. This area is rich with cultural significance and the waters and lands are closely connected with First Nations peoples and their ancestors.

There were six Salish languages (Hul'qami'num, Snuneymuxqun, Sqo'mish, she shashishalhem, Tla'amin, Comox, and Pentlatch) spoken traditionally in the RDN. In addition, Nuu chah Nulth, Kwakwala, and Sencothen languages would also bump up against the boundaries of the district. And Chinook was also used as a trading language.

Each piece of land is known by different families, communities, First Nations, dialects and languages by similar and dissimilar names. The land belongs to the name. The name does not belong to the land. In this way, there is more than one "Qualicum", for example: one near Port Renfrew and one also near Bellingham.

We have recorded here (in partnership with School District 69) as many names as we have been able to find. We recognize that more names are out there, and we are always happy to include them if you are open to sharing with us. Email: creid [at]

Traditional ecological knowledge is vital to understanding our watersheds and their health.

Community Programs

RDN Rebates Rebate programs are available for residents across the region to conserve and protect water. Currently being offered are: The RDN's Team WaterSmart offers education and outreach programs across the region. They provide activities and resources on water conservation indoors and outdoors, water quality protection, and ecological values.
  • Workshops
  • Irrigation Initiatives
  • Brochures
  • Events Calendar
School education opportunities are also offered across the region including:
  • Classroom Visits
  • Field Trips
  • Teacher Professional Development
Volunteer opportunities are sometimes available for private well owners, stream stewards and more.
  • I want to volunteer my well for monitoring
  • I want to volunteer with stream monitoring Email: watersmart [at]