For the first time in history, water from Cowichan Lake will be pumped into the Cowichan River.

The unprecedented pumping will begin Thursday to help prevent the crucial community river from potentially running dry.

After suffering a series of severe drought-like conditions earlier this year, the river needs the assistance to maintain its regular water flow.

"This year was a perfect disaster," said Brian Houle, Manager of Environment at Catalyst Paper, the company that operates the Cowichan Lake Dam.

Lack of rain earlier in the year and abnormally low snowpacks have left the lake and river at critical levels, according to Houle.

In fact, the lake is currently at a level that is normally not seen until early October.

While the Cowichan Dam has never required the use of its electric pumps before, the system was tested back in 2016 when severe drought conditions were expected to require its use. Fortunately for the river that year, rains eventually came.

Water is scheduled to begin pumping from Cowichan Lake into the Cowichan River at 11 a.m. Thursday.