The Water Sustainability Act (WSA) [LINK TO WSA MAIN PAGE], came into force on January 29, 2016 along with an initial set of supporting regulations [LINK to REGULATIONS MAIN PAGE] under the WSA. The development of both the WSA and the regulations involved extensive engagement with British Columbians. This page describes the different phases of this engagement and includes links to key documents and input from British Columbians.

2009-2010: Policy Scoping

In December 2009, the Government initiated its engagement process on Water Act Modernization by launching the Living Water Smart Blog [LINK]. The Blog provided information and acted as a forum through which British Columbians could discuss water issues and options for legislative change.

In February 2010, the Government invited submissions from British Columbians on a Water Act Modernization (WAM) Discussion Paper [LINK]. The Discussion Paper proposed eight principles to underpin a modernized Water Act as well as four goals, supporting objectives and possible solutions. The Discussion Paper and a supporting Technical Background Report [LINK] were devel­oped to further encourage dialogue on ways to modernize the Water Act and describe oppor­tunities for using, sustaining and managing water resources in our changing environment.

Discussion Paper [PDF 2.69MB] – February 2010

Technical Background Report [PDF 3.14MB] – February 2010

During this phase British Columbians sent in thousands of submissions [LINK to WHAT WE’VE HEARD sub-page] and offered many great ideas covering everything from how to protect groundwater to how to ensure that streams and lakes stay healthy. In December 2010 government released a Report on Engagement summarizing this input from British Columbians. Comments received covered a broad range of interests and perspectives. Overall, there was broad support for the eight principles and goals described in the Dis­cussion Paper.

Report on Engagement [PDF 11.27MB] – September 2010

2010-2013: Policy Development

In December 2010 government also presented British Columbians with a proposal for a new Water Sustain­ability Act. The Policy Proposal on British Columbia’s new Water Sustainability Act outlines the key policies that would inform such legislation. It also summarizes what government heard from the public in the initial round of engagement earlier in 2010.

Policy Proposal on British Columbia’s new Water Sustainability Act [PDF 2.89MB] – December 2010

Government also invited comments on the proposed policies from stakeholders, First Nations and the public.

During the following months, government reviewed input from citizens and assessed the implications of the proposed policies, including potential costs to both government and water users, and made refinements.

2013-2014: Development of Bill 18 and Royal Assent

In October 2013, government released a Legislative Proposal for a new Water Sustainability Act. This proposal was informed by the many ideas submitted by British Columbians during the initial 2009-2010 engagement process.

Overview of the Legislative Proposal [PDF 3.47MB] – October 2013

Legislative Proposal [PDF 1.9MB] – October 2013

Over the four-week comment period on the Legislative Proposal, government received over 3000 submissions [LINK to WHAT WE’VE HEARD] by email, mail and the blog, as well as 12,000 website visits. Ministry of Environment staff reviewed all comments in the process of preparing the legislation.

On March 11, 2014 Bill 18, the Water Sustainability Act [LINK to LEGISLATION] (WSA), was introduced into the B.C. Legislature. On May 29, 2014, after three readings and Committee Debate, the bill received Royal Assent. At that time, government determined that the new Act would come into force early in 2016.

The WSA establishes the broad legal framework for managing water in British Columbia. Much of the detail about how the general principles laid out in the WSA are to be applied will be provided in regulations.

Due to the complexity of the WSA and the number of proposed regulations and policies, government is taking a phased approach to its implementation. Public comments will continue to be a resource through the development of regulations and planning for implementation.

2014-2015: Water Pricing Review

Most water users pay a licence application fee and annual water rentals to government. These fees and rentals cover the cost to government of delivering the provincial water management program. As the Water Sustainability Act (WSA) extends regulation to groundwater as well as stream water, it will increase the cost of water management.

In March 2014 government therefore initiated a water pricing review. The review was guided by seven water pricing principles and informed by extensive public comment on government’s Pricing B.C.’s Water discussion paper.

Pricing B.C.’s Water [PDF – 705 KB] – March 2014

During the month-long public input period, government received over 130 comments and submissions from citizens as well as from representatives from business and industry, environmental organizations, local government, agriculture and academia. Government also consulted key user groups.

Government released new fees and rentals in February 2015, to take effect in 2016 when the WSA came into force. The Province acknowledges the continued public concern that these new water rates are not high enough and has committed to further review of the rates and fees it charges for water as the implementation of the new WSA continues.

2015-2016: Updating and Replacing Water Act Regulations

Three regulations — the Water Regulation, the Ground Water Protection Regulation, and the Dam Safety Regulation — were authorized under the historic Water Act. When the new Water Sustainability Act (WSA) came into force on January 29, 2016, it repealed the Water Act and these three regulations. In order to maintain the continuity of core water management functions through this transition, government developed a set of similar and updated regulations authorized under the WSA.

Government engaged extensively with key user groups and professionals on aspects of these regulations. In July 2015 government released papers describing proposed policies related to a set of core water management functions. The papers discuss:

  • Licensing groundwater useand 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. – including groundwater licensing, groundwater protection, dam safety, and compliance.

Government invited British Columbians – including First Nations – to provide comments and recommendations related to these proposed policies.

Blog Post #16 – Proposed water Policies: what do you think? – July 2015

Licensing Groundwater Use under British Columbia’s Water Sustainability Act [PDF] – July 2015

The New Groundwater Protection Regulation under British Columbia’s Water Sustainability Act [PDF] – July 2015

The New Dam Safety Regulation Under British Columbia’s Water Sustainability Act [PDF] – July 2015

Strengthening Compliance with British Columbia’s new Water Sustainability Act [PDF] – July 2015

Government considered this input in the fall of 2015 while completing new regulations [LINK to REGULATIONS MAIN PAGE], authorized under the WSA, that came into force on January 29, 2016 along with the WSA.

In general, the new WSA regulations:

  • maintain many elements of the existing Water Act regulations;
  • contain updated legal language;
  • include section references and terminology aligned with the WSA;
  • revise some existing policies; and
  • introduce new policies authorized by the WSA (e.g., related to groundwater )

2016-ongoing: Outstanding Regulations and Policies

Now that the Water Sustainability Act (WSA) and the initial set of regulations have come into force, government is starting to work on other policies and regulatory components required to fully implement the WSA, including:

  • Water objectives
  • Water sustainability plans
  • Measuring and reporting
  • Licence reviews
  • Designated areas
  • Dedicated agricultural water
  • Alternative governance approaches

Government also intends to review the modernized provincial water management program, including a review of its costs, once it is underway.