Blog Post #5 – Water objectives: connecting land and water

We’ve posted three more videos covering the topics of Regulating During Scarcity, Water Governance and Measuring and Reporting.

We’ve also put up two more volumes of email submissions. In the past three weeks, we’ve received over 200 emails and almost 100 blog comments. Thank you all for taking the time to give us feedback on this important legislation. Keep your comments coming in this final week of the feedback period!

The importance of water quality protection has been raised a few times in your comments. Currently, provincial natural resource legislation and local government statutes include a number of measures intended to protect water quality, water quantity and aquatic ecosystem health, however these measures vary across statutes.  For example, the Environmental Management Act protects water quality by regulating industrial and municipal waste discharge, pollution, hazardous waste and contaminated site remediation. The Drinking Water Protection Act provides the legal framework for drinking water protection in BC.  The Forest and Range Practices Act and its regulations include water quality provisions to protect water resources from the impacts of forest practices on Crown land.

The proposed Water Sustainability Act would allow government to establish Water Objectives for water quality, water quantity and aquatic ecosystem health.  Water Objectives would provide strategic direction and a more consistent approach for decision-makers – primarily those in the natural resource sector and within local governments – when making decisions which may impact water resources. Objectives could be established for a stream, an aquifer or an area of land or watershed.  Decision-makers would also be empowered to establish terms and conditions in authorizations to help prevent or mitigate water-related impacts.  Development and implementation of the Objectives would be integrated with other government programmes such as government’s Environmental Mitigation Policy.

How do you see Water Objectives working?  Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below on the Blog.



    User avatar
    [-] Vivienne

    The proposed legislation fails to take into account or recognize where our water comes from. The entire land that collects water (the entire watershed) has to be looked at and protected as the source of our drinking water. The entire land area that supplies our precious fresh water resources has to be secured as without that area and natures natural filtration our water would not be potable.

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    [-] Kathleen

    Thank you so much for the opportunity to provide comments, particularly through this nifty website. I appreciate the various levels of information available as well as the different media for sharing that information.

    The only message I would like to reinforce is the importance of having sufficient and sustainable staffing and funding resources available, to ensure that government is able to be effective in its roles of oversight and regulation of resource values and public interests. Legislation, regulations, policy and legal objectives form the foundation and framework for governing management, conservation and protection of water resources. However, if water management is truly a priority, it is critical to ensure that there are sufficient and sustainable numbers of trained and supported “boots on ground” staff in key operational roles as regulators, compliance and enforcement, research, baseline data gathering and on-going monitoring. This is particularly important to remember when both the public and private sectors are losing significant numbers of knowledgeable, skilled staff through retirements and attrition. Vacancies need to be filled with qualified employees on an ongoing basis, succession planning and knowledge transfer to new employees needs to happen before additional staff with years and years of experience and expertise leave the public service, and funding needs to be sustainable over the long term to ensure that government staff can continue to do their jobs effectively and meet government’s priorities and be of continued good service to the public.

    Thank you again for giving the public the opportunity to have a voice on the management and protection of this critical resource value.

    User avatar
    [-] Alan

    Trusting the government with the management of this resource is much like getting the fox to guard the hen house. Only by creating an independent commission, one that cannot be meddled with by the governments of the day, can we insure that the proper protections will not be overturned for political or financial advantage.

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    [-] Tim

    Since it is impossible to live in an area that has contaminated ground water or ruined watershed, I want to see more local control over the use of water sources.

    If a local government or First Nations are opposed to a project, then the province should not be able to veto that decision. As residents we are dependent on the health of our local watersheds and maintaining a high standard of safety and quality should not be gambled for the profits that only a few developers would benefit from.

    I would also like to see the water usage fees to go towards strengthening the public monitoring of industrial activity and EXTREMELY HARSH penalties for any company caught breaking the rules.

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    [-] Cathy

    Please protect our water and environment.

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    [-] Jess

    I agree with everything that is being said here. Nature is so important to BC. Let’s take the time to think this through, and get our priorities in line.

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    [-] janet

    We will need our water, it should not be put into little plastic bottles and shipped to other places

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    [-] pat

    Water is our precious resource and must be protected, the govt needs to be a steward ,sale of it by govt is short sighted and greedy and irrevocable.

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    [-] Lanna

    Water is a resource that must be protected for present and future generations.
    That Government thinks it is a ‘manageable resource’ for them to control is arrogant and greedy. Water is a necessity and should be treated as such rather than being sold as a commodity on the free market to Nestle and anyone else that will pay for it.
    If it has to be ‘managed’ then let it be solely for protection, cleanliness and natural habitat.
    Human beings do not own resources, we utilize them for a short time until we pass them on to the next generations. At this point we are receiving a failing grade from our lack of foresight and common sense.

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    [-] Mel

    Mel Anderson Water must first and foremost be regulated for the citizens of BC and not for the wanton use of industry. Industry must be part of the conservation of water and pay an appropriate price for any and all water used and as Ontario has done be restricted to use if and when low water levels occur

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    [-] L

    Wow! It’s Nov 14th and this is the first I’ve heard about this. I listen to CBC all day long. (Not everyone watches TV news). Why no info?

    BC needs water management to give priority to fish, wildlife and essential human needs (BC first), and to do so in a way that is BINDING forever.
    Industry should never have priority, or cheaper rates than people, food crops, animals and other wildlife. Our natural resources cannot be replaced once lost ruined, or stolen.

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    [-] Dominique

    Please take into consideration these thoughts and comments.
    I am worried about the maintenance and safety of the waterways and water tables for fish, wildlife and humans.

    I want to see limits for industrial use such as higher fees, enforcement of strong regulations, policies and standards.

    I want to see fair consultation with First Nations and inclusion of First Nations representatives in decision-making
    It is essential that we have high quality research and incorporation of scientific evidence into policy development and decision-making.

    User avatar
    [-] Penny

    At any price our water is not for sale, including fracking, tailings, nestle, whomever! Hands OFF!!

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    [-] Michelle

    I also agree with other posters that this deadline for submissions needs to be extended to March, 2014.

    And I fully fully endorse the intent of this mass submission: that the BC Government enact groundwater regulations that protect British Columbia’s water for yours and mine great-great-grandchildren. Those of you lucky enough to play with your great-grandchildren before you exit this stage someday: imagine THEIR children, your great-grandchildren’s babies. People we love will exist in the future, when we are gone. We can LEAVE our love behind for them. Please do the right thing. This is your citizenry requiring you to live up to the mandate to serve the people, not political needs, not corporate imperatives.

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    [-] Trevor

    Let’s not keep even more stupid here. Keep our waters resident owned

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    [-] Richard

    I’ve spent a lot of time traveling over Vancouver Island and have seen how vulnerable many water courses are to human impact. I beleive that water will be a hot issue in the coming years and we need to do what we can to insure that our precious BC Water is kept safe for our own use and for a healthy environment. I especially support a commitment to shared governance in local watersheds and well-funded scientific monitoring of the impacts of human activity on water courses. Also well funded enforcement of breaches to the act by industry and private land holders. I especially don’t want big corporations gaining rights to sell our water without strict guidelines. I think it would be appropriate to tax industrial water users and sellers. The tax revenue could go directly to enhance wetlands, stream restoration, etc.

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    [-] Kim

    The Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC commends the Province for recognizing the connection between land use actions and the implications (consequences) for both the water cycle and watershed sustainability in the local government setting. We are excited because WSA would put a strategic water lens in front of decision-makers so that they integrate:
    1. Water Quantity Objectives
    2. Water Quality Objectives
    3. Watershed and Stream Health Objectives
    Because these objectives address cumulative effects (or conversely, cumulative benefits) in a watershed context, the Partnership for Water Sustainability envisions that WSA would create new opportunities for stakeholders to work together and facilitate desired outcomes for watershed and stream health in populated areas.

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    [-] Kathleen

    Water is our most valuable resource & it mustn’t be squandered by greedy companies and politicians

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    [-] Gloria

    Keep our water in Canada

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    [-] Joel

    Another way to exploit bc and steal all the profits I’m against it for sure.

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    [-] Trevor

    I agree with this proposal 100%. Also, it should be noted that water is a natural resource and should be protected from foreign exploitation by the same federal and provincial laws that protect our forests and oil. No matter how deep the drilling once the water hots the surface it belongs to the citizens of BC and Canada respectively. We all should have a direct say om how the resource is managed before this foreign company exploits is like they have so many others in the US.

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    [-] Angus

    As a BC resident and campaigner at, I would like to officially present the following petition, signed by over 110,000 members, calling on the BC Government to enact groundwater regulations that protect British Columbia’s water from corporate freeloaders. You can see the petition text here:

    We understand that the BC Government is inviting feedback on A Water Sustainability Act for BC: A Legislative Proposal until Nov. 15th, 2013. In addition to making you aware of the petition, I would like to submit the following comments on behalf of our 110,000 members who have signed the petition:

    +The water use fees needs to be higher — At 85 cents per 1,000 cubic meters, the rate is too low. A foreign company like Nestle is paying one third of the per unit price compared to residents. The fees should not only cover administrative costs, but cover related water management and governance activities. The fees should also be earmarked for a more comprehensive approach to water management instead of being directed into the province’s general revenue.

    +There is a lack of public participation in local decision making — Watersheds often cover a large area, and affected residents should be involved in decisions including the granting of water license. In particular, First Nations groups should also participate in the drafting of the Water Act. The Act should also include provisions for public notice of application and public hearings, the right for residents for BC to object to license issuance, and the ability of the public to appeal the granting of the license.

    +There is a lack of legal commitment to set waters aside for nature — BC’s nature is our most precious resource, and we need mandatory commitments by the government to protect marine life in the province. We need legally established standards, not guidelines, for critical environmental protections.

    +The Water Sustainability Act must apply to all fresh water users in the provinces — The current proposal implies that oil and gas and forestry sectors could be except from the Act.

    We have and will be communicating to our members about the process of drafting of the Water Sustainability Act as it proceeds. We look forward to seeing our comments reflected in the final draft of the Act.

    User avatar
    [-] Bruce

    We strongly endorse all the comments submitted by the BC Cattlemen’s Association.

    User avatar
    [-] Ian

    The WaterWealth Project commends the government of BC on the legislative proposal for the Water Sustainability Act. There are many aspects of the proposal that steer water stewardship in BC in good directions. We look forward to an implementation process that engages the public and First Nations in BC in the development of the regulations that will determine how the good intentions of the Act are put into practice.

    What follows is not meant to be an exhaustive review of the proposal, but points out particular areas of concern identified by the WaterWealth Project.

    First Nations Rights and Title must be respected

    The WaterWealth Project supports the call of the First Nations leadership Council and others for meaningful government-to-government consultations between the Province of BC and title-holding First Nations as committed to in the New Relationship. We share the concern of First Nations that consultation has been inadequate in the development of the Water Sustainability Act to date. However, the Water Sustainability Act offers an opportunity to advance reconciliation of Aboriginal and Crown titles and jurisdictions, and to act on the New Relationship’s call for establishment of shared decision-making processes and institutions. We call upon the government of BC to demonstrate a commitment to upholding the honour of the Crown, and the honour of British Columbians, in the fullest sense of the word ‘honour’ going forward.

    Water use fees must make public cents

    Fee schedules for groundwater and surface water must ensure that not only administrative costs are met, but that resources are made available for water management and governance-related activities. Fees should no longer go to general revenue, but should be used to create a fund to enable robust monitoring, reporting, managing and enforcement of water use in the province, and to resource local watershed processes. Pricing should reflect the need to encourage efficiency and conservation.

    Water must be protected as a public resource

    No matter the ideology of government, the state of the economy, or the laws of the day, we will always need water. The Water Sustainability Act must be explicit to ensure that license holders understand they are not gaining a ‘property right’ and that water licences cannot be traded. The definition of Beneficial Use must be broadened beyond the proposed requirement to use water efficiently, and must require licence holders to manage water for the public benefit in the interests of both current and future generations. Beneficial Use requirements, with this expanded definition, should be made a core part of Water Objectives. Local tools such as Area-based Regulations and Water Sustainability Plans must be able to over-rule the First In Time, First In Right water rights allocations where the public good would be best served by doing so.

    We need an inventory on groundwater before we open up the shop

    Knowledge of groundwater and the intersections between ground and surface water in BC is still incomplete and jurisdiction with regard to First Nations is not settled. The WSA proposal calls for flexibility in water licensing for the convenience and protection of certain classes of water users. For example; five year project development periods for power purpose water licences and a three to five year transition period for groundwater users to obtain licences based on their historic use. Similar flexibility should be made in the Act for the protection of the resource itself. New or transitioning licences should be given an initial term of 5 years. During that time both science and traditional knowledge should be drawn upon to provide complete knowledge of the resource and to inform groundwater decisions. Given that conditions are changing and can be expected for the foreseeable future to change at an accelerating rate with climate change, the thirty and forty year licence terms proposed for the WSA are too long. Licence periods should be no more than ten years in order to provide flexibility to respond to changing conditions.

    Apply the Water Sustainability Act to all fresh water users in the province

    Polling of British Columbians has consistently shown a very high expectation of protection of environmental and basic human needs in water use. In part, such protection in the WSA takes the form of Water Objectives. In keeping with the expectation of British Columbians that environmental values will be protected, Water Objectives must include Environmental Flow Needs and Critical Environmental Flows, must be legally enforceable, and must apply to all water users. There should be no exemptions for Forestry or Oil & Gas and where other acts contain provisions to protect water for particular sectors the WSA should be taken as a minimum standard which must be met or exceeded by the provisions of those other Acts.

    Build in safeguards to ensure we can continue to improve.

    With the Water Sustainability Act, we need to continually evolve our water use practices and management systems. The province needs to conduct the scientific investigations and study of local and traditional knowledge in regions and watersheds to ensure that we do not put in place water management systems that lock in unsustainable water use. Water licences should undergo review every 10 years so that changing conditions can be anticipated and adapted to.

    Local capacity needs to be continually strengthened to make best use of area-based regulations, Water Sustainability Plans and other water management tools. Advisory committees and other local water governance bodies must be composed with recognition of aboriginal title and to be representative of the communities within the areas they oversee. They must be sufficiently resourced with both funding and access to expertise to manage the waters within their areas. Their proceedings and decisions must be public and they must be accountable to the communities whose water they oversee.

    User avatar
    [-] Helen

    Some of the issues that I believe are crucial to consider:
    – maintenance of clean and safe and adequately flowing waterways and habitat for fish, birds and all wildlife;
    – protection of waterways and water table for human needs;
    – need for limits on industrial use;
    – need for higher fees for industrial use that represent the true cost of the resource and the cost to society overall instead of what appear to be the present giveaway fees.
    – development and enforcement of strong laws, regulations, policies, standards and penalties that ensure the long term protection of water sources and the water table;
    – meaningful consultation with First Nations and inclusion of First Nations representatives in decision-making
    – funding for high quality research and incorporation of scientific evidence into policy development and decision-making.

    User avatar
    [-] Dana

    I am in support of the proposed concept of Water Objectives, but would like to see them published and out for public review before being legislated. I think BC could benefit from formally managing water on a watershed-by-watershed basis like in Washington with the WRIAs or in Ontario with Conservation Authorities.

    As well, I support an extended deadline for public review of the Legislative proposal.

    User avatar
    [-] Kim

    I agree with other posters that this deadline for submissions needs to be extended to March, 2014. The Legislation cannot be tabled before then anyways and people need more time to go over this important proposal. Our fresh water is the single most important resource we have, it is important not to rush into anything without thinking it through thoroughly and making sure that the resource will be there for our children and their grandchildren.

    User avatar
    [-] Lana

    I support an extension as well, we need to have more time to study . How come we haven’t heard any of this until the submission deadline is fast approaching?
    The public process for the changes to liquor policy were very well advertised.
    Water is far more important and I’ve heard nothing about this process untill very recently.

    User avatar
    [-] Nelle

    I support fully the following request to extend the response deadline on the WSA Proposal to March, 2014. The short window for response to this very important, yet nonspecific high level document has been mentioned in numerous blog posts and submissions. The lack of detail is startling and will not result in protection of water in the public good as June Ross points out below. I sincerely hope others on the blog will similarly request an extension.

    “This morning, November 12th, the following press release went out;

    On November 9th, 2013, twenty Vancouver Island water-related stewardship groups met in Nanaimo to discuss the Provincial government’s Water Sustainability Act proposal. A response to the detailed 126-page proposal is expected within a one-month deadline, which all groups have stated is inadequate in light of the fact it took the Province three years to complete the proposal.
    The Island groups have written to the Legislative Assembly demanding the timeline for public review be extended to March 1st, 2014.

    June Ross, Vancouver Island Water Watch Coalition says; “”Concerns have been raised that this proposal falls short in protecting water resources as a public good, providing equitable access to water and increased community control of drinking watersheds. It seems the proposed Act will not be beneficial to the people of British Columbia nor to the environment. The proposed Act has set industries’ right to access water as a higher priority than protecting water resources and increasing communities’ control over their own watersheds.”

    User avatar
    [-] Sharon

    Given the declaration by other provinces and countries that water is a ‘public trust’ to be protected for present and future generations, this document falls considerably short. The failing here is that the government is clearly not managing our water for the public or common good, nor will the public have input into it’s management. Who will determine what constitutes regional water scarcity, or area based regulations, or land use decisions? Apparently, not those who are directly impacted. Excluding the public’s ability for input is regressive at best. There are countless successful models for managing the water commons, so it wouldn’t be a case of reinventing the wheel.

    Groundwater management is long overdue. Taxpayers are subsidizing industrial water users and water bottling interests, without any clear evidence of aquifer capacity, or knowledge of recharging ability. Collecting aquifer data will require a considerable financial commitment. If BC can’t commit to that, I would argue that commercial and industrial use should be restricted.

    Not being able to manage our watershed is a concern in our area, yet our municipality is required to protect its potable water source without the tools to do so.

    User avatar
    [-] Nelle

    It is VERY difficult to find the current email submissions you mention above as follows: “We’ve also put up two more volumes of email submissions. In the past three weeks, we’ve received over 200 emails…”

    Please re-organize the Stage 3 submissions under their own tab. Currently anyone wishing to read submissions on the WSA proposal, which you are calling STAGE 3, is given no direction that the Stage 3 submissions are sandwiched in near the bottom of all submissions from Stage 1 and 2 under the CATEGORIES TAB. At the very least you should explain to users how to find the Stage 3 submissions under the Categories tab.

    This is hardly transparent and discourages the public from reading email submissions from others. The current new Stage 3 submissions include the following as of this morning, Nov 12th:

    NEW! Agriculture (Stage 3)

    WSA signed Response letter – IIABC Nov 4 2013

    NEW! ENGO (Stage 3)

    Friends of the Stikine
    Transition Nelson Society

    NEW! Forestry (Stage 3)

    Island Timberlands

    NEW! Individual (Stage 3)

    Email Submissions Vol 1
    Email Submissions Vol 2
    Email Submissions Vol 3
    Email Submissions Vol 4
    Form Letter Submissions_Vol 1

    NEW! Other Organizations (Stage 3)

    CUPE BC response to WSA leg prop

    NEW! Water Industry (Stage 3)

    Western Water Associates

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    [-] Alan

    There is one major concern that I have, one that every citizen of British Columbia should have, that is, “who has the power to control this most precious resource”?
    It would seem that our present government is prepared to override and or directly legislate to enable their own agenda. We have seen this done with the Agriculture Land Commission, the BC Utilities Commission and now the Water Commission. Where are the safeguards that will prevent a government now or in the future from meddling with this resource for it’s own purposes? We need to have a commission set up that has teeth, one that cannot be ordered about by whichever government is in power.

    Before any legislation is set we must insure that no Minister, now or in the future, has the ability to decree changes to the act without proper debate in the legislature.

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    [-] S

    ***** great input

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    [-] Dominion

    Dominion Creek Ranch is a multi-generation ranch in the Kamloops area.We actively support the local economy and volunteer in our community.The water rights secured by our ancestors are vital to the operation of this ranch.Government should recognize the importance of maintaining a viable agriculture economy and secure food production within the province.We support the position of the British Columbia Cattlemens Association.

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