Blog Post #16 – Proposed water policies: what do you think?



Much of the detail related to implementation of the new Water Sustainability Act will be provided in regulations and operational policies.  Due to the complexity of the new act and the number of proposed regulations, government is taking a phased approach to implementation.

Government has released four papers describing proposed new policies related to core water management activities.  The papers discuss:

  • Licensing groundwater use and assigning related water rights. Proposed policies encourage existing groundwater users to apply early for a licence.
  • Requirements for constructing and maintaining wells and protecting groundwater, including the management of artesian flows and the deactivation and decommissioning of unused wells.
  • Provisions to enhance dam safety; and reduce risk related to a dam failure, including more stringent requirements for emergency planning and annual review of downstream conditions.
  • New offences and fines, including offences related to the beneficial use of water, groundwater licensing, and enhanced protection of aquatic ecosystems..

Pending government review and approval, the proposed policies are to be incorporated into new regulations that would come into force along with the Water Sustainability Act in 2016.

We invite you to share your thoughts about the proposed policies by leaving a comment below or sending an email to livingwatersmart@gov.bc.ca. Comments will be accepted until September 8th, 2015.

The Living Water Smart Team

19 responses to “Blog Post #16 – Proposed water policies: what do you think?

  1. slaidlaw

    Question #1: Will there be a searchable and sortable public database with information about dams that the public can access including which dams have been reclassified, which dams have not submitted their annual safety reports and which dams have failed inspections?

    Question #2: will there be a notification website when a dam is not in compliance with safety regulations and when it has become compliant?

    Question #3: I can go to the court house and see who is being charged with a driving offence. Will I also be able to see which dam owners are also being charged?

    1. Living Water Smart Team

      Thanks for the questions. Information about the location, ownership and dimensions of dams regulated under the Water Act is available from the Dam Safety Program website. Specific details about the classification and status of individual dams are not currently available online. However, the public can visit the Environmental Enforcement Reporting website and use the searchable Environmental Violations Database to review enforcement actions under the Dam Safety Regulation or any other environmental legislation.

  2. John Janmaat

    One overarching issue for me is resourcing the implementation and ongoing activities of the act and resulting regulations. I would like to see all fees collected in relation to water to be collected by an organization at arms length from government and the political process. This organization needs to have the authority to set fees so as to collect sufficient revenues to cover the costs of all the activities – monitoring and enforcement, ongoing measurement activities, providing public access to data, etc. By providing financial independence at arms length from the political process, these critical activities will not be subject to political whims.

    Specifically for well safety, bonding, particularly for wells that are registered as temporary, should be considered. The bond should be sufficient to pay for decomissioning, should the well owner not decomission the well apporpriately when it is done.

    Bonding or something similar should also be considered as matter for dam safety. No regime of inspections is ever going to be perfect, and failures will occur. The cost of dealing with these events should not fall on the citizenry of the province. However, if the costs of compensation and remediation are high enough, relative to the value generated by the dam operations, dam owners may simply declare bankruptcy, passing on the costs to the public at large. This probability needs to be anticipated, and policies be in place to offset this risk.

    On the enforcement side, I return to my first point. Monitoring activities need to occur with sufficient regularity to catch offenders. Regulations and laws are no use in and of themselves. They need to be backed up by resources to monitor compliance and sanction those who are out of compliance.

  3. AJ

    What is the likely-hood of banning the water bottling process in BC completely?

    1. Living Water Smart Team

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts about water bottling in BC. The Province does not target specific sectors of the beverage industry. Water bottling is an established water use purpose under the Water Regulation. Water bottling operations obtain water from both surface and groundwater sources. Surface water use currently requires a water licence but groundwater use does not. However, when the Water Sustainability Act comes into force in 2016, non-domestic users of groundwater — including water bottling operators and other commercial enterprises — will require a water licence and be subject to regulation. In addition, the federal government regulates bottled water as a food product through the Food and Drugs Act. More information about bottled water regulations is available on the Health Canada website.

  4. Nancy Crozier

    While I applaud the government’s intention to modernize the Water Act, I think there are several problems with the new Water Sustainability Act. In particular the FITFIR model which should be scrapped. Existing permits should be re-examined regularly and permits should be for a limited period and subject to review( especially as water scarcity and Global warming are changing our supply). Communities should have priority over corporate and industrial needs and the public should have the opportunity to weigh in on these decisions in a meaningful way.
    Indigenous communities in particular ( many under boil-water orders for years) have had little or no control over their territorial watersheds. This is just wrong. First Nations have lived in this country for thousands of years stewarding their resources in a sustainable way. This right should be supported by the new Water Act.
    Water is life and we need to protect our communities access to clean potable water and not serve the corporate / industrial needs over and above human’s needs.

  5. David Collins

    What is “non-domestic use?”

    Is a person (with well-water) on a 2 acre woodlot who keeps the maximum number of municipally regulated chickens and has a sign on their road frontage saying “Eggs for Sale” using water for a commercial use, and thus, a non-domestic use?

    Is the bucket of water a blacksmith, on 5 acres who sells art at festivals, uses for the production of saleable metalwork art considered a non-domestic use?

    1. Living Water Smart Team

      Thank you for raising these questions about water use purpose. Section 2 of the Water Sustainability Act defines ‘domestic purpose’ as the use of water in a private dwelling for drinking, food preparation, sanitation, and fire prevention; water for pets and household animals or poultry; and irrigating a garden adjoining a dwelling. Both your examples deal with very small quantities of water associated generally with domestic water use. Compared to the total used by the household for domestic purpose and under the legal maxim of de minimis (of minimal importance) the small quantities would be considered insignificant and therefore permitted as a domestic use.

  6. Ben Child

    I am a ccc tester/ operator, plumber, gasfitter, millwright, front yard mechanic, urban farmer, husband, and father of 3. I believe it’s everyone’s right to access free, clean water but not to waste it. Every homeowner should have the right to have a well if they want or need one. Too much red tape, governmental interference and fees are some of the systemic problems in the world today; why consider more? Let us be free productive people as part of a thriving country. Why don’t we tap the Harrison for the lowermainland? We should also look into nano particle filtration to remove toxic heavy metals like aluminum that are poisoning us. Thanks – Ben Child of Surrey

  7. Rich Ballantyne

    Do I understand this correctly? A a small Waterworks Improvement District, operating under the Local Government Act and in the business of supplying the community for the past 47 years under provincially issued Letters Patent, now has to apply for a license? That license may or may not be granted based on some bureaucrat’s idea of water rights? In times of stress, the waterworks district could be asked to curtail water use, while private wells are allowed to continue pumping? That our small waterworks district using 6650 m3 per year will pay 15 cents per m3, while larger districts (up to 100,000m3) would pay only 6% of that or 1 cent per m3. And even larger hogs of water with use over 5,000,000 m3 will pay only 0.2 cents per m3? And our waterworks improvement district gets what service in return?

  8. Donna Barnes

    The issuance of water licenses, or any other resource extraction licences on Aboriginal title land would be considered direct transfers of Aboriginal rights and title to third parties and would be seen as meaningful diminutions of our ownership rights amounting to an infringement. Aboriginal Rights and Title include water. Water is sacred to us.

    Please consult First Nations in a meaningful way. Our elders are very important advisors to us, but they do not always have English as their first language. Some struggle with computers.

    I am concerned that foreign corporations are demanding an accounting of how much water we have in BC before they invest. I am also concerned that the foreign corporations are the senior license holders who are given special water rights. Do we have a right to know who the senior license holders are?

    You do not have my consent.
    First Nations people need funding to organize their hereditary chiefs. I believe it is not legally binding to get elected chief consent for off reserve decisions of this magnitude. I believe it would be conflict of interest.
    First Nations people are very poor. They are corralled onto Indian reserves with no access to any resources to get organized. In fact, some tribes don’t even have SAFE DRINKING WATER.

    YOU DO NOT HAVE MY CONSENT.

    1. Living Water Smart Team

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on water licensing and Aboriginal interests. The Province recognizes that it has a duty to consult First Nations where it proposes a decision or activity under the Water Sustainability Act — including those associated with groundwater use — that could impact claimed or proven Aboriginal or treaty rights. Information about existing licences including stream name, licensee, purpose and quantity is available on government’s Water Licences Query webpage.

  9. John Mansell

    It is the citizens of this province that own the province, it’s resources both legal and real. It is the governments sole duty to protect this province, it’s resources both legal and real on behalf of its citizens.

    When it comes to water, surface and ground water, it is the responsibility and duty of the government to protect its citizens resource from commercial abuse or overuse so that its citizens right to clean water and benefits of clean water, such as fisheries, is protected.

    This translates to government responsibility to protect the citizens resource from pollutants, toxins and diminishment. This responsibility, and it’s incumbent rights, is founded upon the right of the citizens, the true owners of the resource, to clean potable water. When the citizens resource of water is used for commercial purposes it is within the governments mandate to see that this use does not conflict with the citizens right to clean potable water by managing commercial use to ensure against pollution and diminishment of the resource and procure appropriate compensation on behalf of its citizenry. It is therefore NOT within the governments mandate or right to charge or regulate an individual’s right to water on their own property. There are laws already in place to protect water passing through an individual’s property from pollutants, and the limited nature of domestic demand itself protects against diminishment.

    Although regulation of commercial groundwater use is a prudent measure it is of great concern that this would leave domestic well owners the sole target of regulatory enthusiasts and a tempting source of revenue for financially minded governments. Domestic well owners have over the last century shown themselves to be generally good self educated managers of their groundwater resource. Governments, on all levels, over the same century have shown themselves to be very poor managers of surface and ground water, fisheries, forests and most resources they have had regulatory powers over. In the same way the government refused to listen to the east coast fisheries and managed that fishery into near extinction, in my life time I have watched the government ignore environmentalists warnings and mismanage our environment and waters to the point of crisis. It is for this very reason that we now have the Water Sustainability Act, to try and correct the governments history of mismanagement.

    In summary I do agree with regulation and licensing of commercial groundwater use but I am very skeptical of the government motives regarding domestic groundwater use and would vehemently oppose regulation and/or licensing of domestic groundwater use, eg. domestic wells.

  10. Malin Christensson

    Hi dears,

    Water is important and getting more scarce with climate change. Congrats to updating an old water law, unfortunately you need to think more about people and the planet than of profit and big corporations. In our neighborhood area there is a company pumping up water for bottling and planning to sell to China, with no permit and no fees. Unfortunately the neighbors do not know yet. What are the effects on the groundwater and the stability of the land, of the ecosystem? We had water restrictions in Nelson, would those apply to bottle factories?

    I demand that the new Water Sustainability Act:

    recognize water as a human right
    reaffirm water as a public trust that belongs to people and cannot be privately owned or controlled
    create an approval process for groundwater withdrawals that includes public consultation, incorporates community input into the final decision, and respects a community’s right to say “no” to projects that abuse or pollute water
    include strict pollution controls, strong conservation regulations and stringent monitoring
    ensure a process to revoke permits where industries are polluting or abusing water
    charge industry proper fees for their use of raw and municipal water takings
    recognize Indigenous title and jurisdiction to watersheds as well as secure free, prior and informed consent protocols within the Water Act alongside policies to monitor and sustain groundwater.

    Thank you and do take care,
    Malin

  11. Tessa Benterud

    I am a rancher, wife and mother of three. We are on a well here and most of my livestock drink from the well too and have dugout too. I do not give my consent on this water regulations. I do believe that water use needs to be respected but not regulated by anyone. Way to many rules and regulations on everything and I feel the government is taking away our freedom and rights. Plus just seen this in the fort st John bc news paper today (Sept 4 2015 ) so you guys really didn’t keep the public informed regarding this. Plus how does this work with community pastures for livestock. To regulate ones home is one thing but to regulate a ranch (livestock ) &/or a farm (crops) just can not be done. I feel as tho you have only looked at households and not the ranchers/farmers who rely on water to live, to make our business grow etc.
    I don’t agree with the water sustainability act.

  12. Sue Taylor

    Agriculture is a important asset to the BC economy and another “fee” is just another financial cost for this industry in BC. Many of the wells in BC are in rural areas. Where else are rural landowners going to get water but from a well. We pay for drilling a well, tax is paid on a well through the cost of electricity to take the water from the ground, well maintenance, taking water from a well is not free. If a well goes dry another well needs to be drilled or alternative water system is installed at a substantial cost to the landowner. How is gravity fed water systems, and artisian wells going to be licensed? It is unacceptable the amount of water that is being exported from BC at a pittance.

  13. Leanne Herrick

    There is detail to be addressed before signing off our water rights. I believe we have the right to fresh, untreated water. Currently live of well water, and have done for 16 years. Your plan can easily ruin our aquifer! Please consider a reconsideration of the placement of this line, that runs through the best fish rearing rivers in the fraser valley. This decision is not to be taken lightly, nor can it be undone once licences have been given. Please consider another route of passage to ensure our groundwater is protected entirely.

  14. Ian Stephen

    The WaterWealth Project offer the following comments on the groundwater regulation.

    1. Define Sustainable groundwater management
    The regulation must clearly define sustainable groundwater managemen such as, for example, the California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act definition: “Sustainable groundwater management means the management and use of groundwater in a manner that can be maintained during the planning and implementation horizon without causing undesirable results”

    2. Initial licences must be conditional and reviewable
    The province does not have complete knowledge of groundwater supplies and demands. Nor is the understanding complete on the state of glaciers, interactions between groundwater and freshwater, or what to expect from climate change. Knowing we are starting with insufficient data means we should commence regulation with conditional water licences having a built-in review period of 5 years to allow audits of watersheds to be completed and licences to be reviewed when knowledge is more complete to ensure sustainability of uses.

    3. Licences must be issued in compliance with sustainability principles
    Specific considerations must be set in regulation not just policy. Considerations must include sustainable groundwater management, cumulative impacts, Environmental Flow Needs and long term multi-generational management of groundwater.

    4. Licence applications should be posted publicly and opportunities made available for public input to decision makers.

    5. Oversubscribed basins must be closed to new licences
    Regulations should set out priority basins in which more stringent regulations and local planning tools such as Water Sustainability Plans will be given earliest priority. Criteria for closing fully allocated basins must be made clear in regulation.

    6. Reporting must include baseline data on aquifers and actual use
    This is particularly important given the uncertainty and lack of aquifer mapping in BC. Monitoring must be adequately funded and not rely solely on self-reporting by users. Gaps in existing monitoring programs must be remedied, eg eliminating conditions that cause gaps in provincial groundwater observation well data.

    7. Saline groundwater must be included in groundwater regulation
    Saline groundwater is best managed within the groundwater regulations, recognizing the interconnectedness of freshwater and saline groundwater aquifers. Use of saline groundwater where appropriate encourages conservation of potable groundwater.

    8. NE Oil and Gas human health risk assessment recommendations
    Water related recommendations of the North East Oil and Gas Human Health Risk Assessment should be implemented in the WSA groundwater regulations eg groundwater and vulnerability mapping.

  15. Lorraine Aitken

    I live in a rural well-dependent neighbourhood adjacent to a local municipality. There is nothing in the existing regulations nor in these new regulations to protect well-dependent rural areas from major infrastructure projects that bring the potential for aquifer and well damage, but absolutely no benefit to the residents of the area. For example, local municipalities secretly purchased a piece of property in my well-dependent rural neighbourhood for a sewage pump station, a sewage pump station that could damage our aquifer and wells, a pump station that we are not allowed to hook up to, a sewage pump station that is only for the benefit of urban dwellers far removed from our neighbourhood. When we turned to this act and its regulations to protect us, we found nothing, and it appears that there is nothing in the new regulations to prevent this scenario from happening anywhere else in BC. This provincial act and its regulations should protect individual wells and the aquifers they are dependent upon from any type of development or project that may damage them, including projects of local governments. The new regulations focus on “improving well construction and maintenance standards”, but they do not offer any protection from projects of local government that could damage wells.

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