Nanaimo River Watershed Map

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RDN Watershed Map > Nanaimo River

DWWP Quick Facts

The Nanaimo River Water Region starts at Fourth Lake and follows the Nanaimo River down to the estuary across from downtown Nanaimo. The total drainage area is approximately 939 sq. km.

Its land base includes RDN Electoral areas A and C, and provides the drinking water for the City of Nanaimo.

For a zoomed-in map of the lower Nanaimo River water region - the Cedar and Yellow Point area - please click here.

Base LayerLand UseWater SupplyAquifersStreams & WaterbodiesFirst Nations SignificanceCommunity Programs

Base Layer

Land Use

The extent of the Nanaimo River Water Region, spans into the upper elevations of the Island Mountain Range, to Mount El Capitain (1,537 m) near Jump Lake. The predominant land use in the upper watershed is unpopulated private managed forestry land.

The private managed forestry lands are overseen by the Managed Forest Council. The two largest private forest companies are TimberWest and Island Timberlands.

The Jump Lake watershed (a sub-watershed within the Nanaimo River water region) is designated as a Community Watershed by the Province, for special regulatory protection as it is a basin that drains into the drinking water source (Jump Lake) for the City of Nanaimo.

In the lower water region, there is some farm-related land use, rural residential areas, the village centre of Cedar.

For a zoomed-in map of the lower Nanaimo River water region - the Cassidy, South Wellington and Cedar-Yellow Point area - please click here.

There are two Regional District of Nanaimo Electoral Areas that overlap this water region, each of which have Official Community Plans (OCPs) for their land base:

Water Supply

Water Region 6 contains the drinking water source (South Fork of the Nanaimo River) for the residents of the City of Nanaimo, whose land base is in Water Region 5.

The Nanaimo River Water Region also contains the groundwater sources which provide water to the rural communities of Cedar, Yellow Point, Cassidy and South Wellington.

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.

There are three notable small community water systems in this water region:

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

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


In this water region, there are bedrock aquifers and sand and gravel aquifers that are the main source of drinking water in the areas outside the municipality of Nanaimo. Aquifers are underground areas that store water, either in bedrock fractures or in the pore space between sand and gravel. This includes provincially mapped aquifers 162, 164, 165, 168, 963, 964 (bedrock) and aquifers 160, 161, 163 (sand and gravel). See the BC Water Resource Atlas for a close-up map of these aquifers.

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

  • (#312) in Cassidy at Haslam Creek T-Bridge that monitors water levels in surficial sand and gravel aquifer 161.
  • (#228) in Cassidy at Timberlands Road that monitors water levels in surficial sand and gravel aquifer 160.
  • (#337) in Ladysmith at Woodley Range that monitors water levels in bedrock aquifer 162.
  • (#432) in Yellow Point at Quennell Road that monitors water levels in bedrock aquifer 162.
  • (#390) in Cedar on Holden-Corso Road that monitors water levels in bedrock aquifer 162.
  • (#435) in South Wellington that monitors water levels in bedrock aquifer 165.

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

For more on groundwater and aquifers, see Aquifers 101.

Streams & Waterbodies

This water region captures the drainage basin of the Nanaimo River, including important tributaries: Jump Creek, South Nanaimo River, Haslam Creek - which all drain into the Salish Sea at the Strait of Georgia. There are several headwater lakes including Fourth Lake, Nanaimo Lakes and Jump Lake. Jump Lake has a large capacity dam that stores water for City of Nanaimo residents' drinking water and Nanaimo River fish flows.

Key stewardship groups that are active in this region include: the Nanaimo and Area Land Trust and the multi-stakeholder communications group, the Nanaimo River Watershed Roundtable.

Streamflow is monitored a Water Survey of Canada hydrometric gauge in the lower Nanaimo River near Cassidy.

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

The RDN Phase 1 Water Budget Study (2013) looked at supply and demand on surface water resources in Water Region 6, based on available data.

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]