Blog Post #7 – Deadline for feedback approaching

Today marks the final day of the feedback period on the proposed new Water Sustainability Act for BC.

We’ve been gathering your comments and questions on the proposal including the seven key policy areas:

  • Protecting stream health and aquatic environments
  • Consider water in land use decisions
  • Regulate and protect groundwater use
  • Regulate during scarcity
  • Improve security, water use efficiency and conservation
  • Measure and reporting water use
  • Enable a range of governance approaches

You’ve provided hundreds of comments on the Blog and thousands more via email that we are continuing to post on the website. We really appreciate your time and effort!

Have some final thoughts? Have a look at the Overview document, watch one of the videos or review the Legislative Proposal.

Post a comment on the Blog or send an email to  All comments received by midnight tonight will be considered as government prepares a final version of the new legislation.



    User avatar
    [-] Ian

    Honourable Mary Polak, Minister of Environment
    Living WaterSmart Staff

    The following is my personal comment on the Water Sustainability Act Legislative Proposal.

    I have found the four week time allowed for comment to be insufficient.

    True there have been consultations of various kinds going on for some time, but this legislative proposal is an opportunity to see what the government intends to go ahead with as law. All people I have talked with are concerned and care about water and water law, but most have trouble digesting a document this size, becoming familiar with various aspects of it and returning comments they feel confident making in a four week period.

    First Nations Rights and Title must be honoured.

    I have read many of the submissions from First Nations and the consistent thread in them seems to be that Aboriginal Title has been ignored and the WSA process has fallen short of the Constitutional duty to consult. I was struck by the lack of comment by Metis organizations.
    As a British Columbian I expect the government that represents me to deal with people as I would myself. I too find the government’s claim of property in and rights to water in BC hard to swallow. First Nations have not ceded any rights to water, land or natural resources in most of the province. Even in treaty areas I don’t believe the government has been given carte blanche over water. In my individual dealings I have never uttered the words “That’s for the courts to decide.” Yet in a meeting with an MLA in my area those words were the response to questions of Aboriginal Title. I disagree, and that is not how I want the government that represents me to deal with Rights and Title issues. I expect the government, as I would myself were it a matter between individuals, to sit with those affected and respectfully find an agreement. There is no “win/lose” here, only “right/wrong” and the goal going in should not be “what can I get/how little can I give up” but “what is just.”

    Saline Water should be regulated.

    Leaving saline aquifers unregulated is leaving the way open for problems. Even if a rental of $0 were applied, regulating saline groundwater at least puts in place monitoring of what is going on with it. One hopes that with regulation in place problems might be prevented rather than reacted to.

    Local governance must be adequately resourced.

    The WSA opens the door for local governance options to play a larger part in managing BC water. This is laudable, but must be funded adequately to be effective. Water rental fees, which currently are laughably low, should be raised sufficiently to create a fund for local governance in whatever form to be able to use such tools as Water Sustainability Plans. Wherever local governance bodies are put in place First Nations must be equal partners.

    Licence terms should provide flexibility to adapt to changing conditions.

    The climate is changing. We need to be able to adapt. There is flexibility in the WSA for power purpose licences to have development periods at the beginning or end of their licence term. There is flexibility in the time allowed for groundwater users to get licences so they can adapt their businesses. There should be flexibility for the water itself as well. Groundwater licences should have an initial term of 5 years while thorough investigations of groundwater resources in the province are carried out using both science and traditional knowledge. Licences for surface water and for groundwater following that initial term should be for 10 year periods to allow greater opportunity for reviews and more opportunities to respond to changing conditions before scarcity occurs.

    Apply water objectives to all industries.

    The WSA proposes to exempt Forestry and Oil & Gas industries from water objectives. Either water objectives should apply to all industries or the Acts that regulate those industries should have to meet or exceed WSA water objectives as a minimum standard. Water objectives should not allow short term licences under those other Acts without consideration of cumulative effects on water sources.

    Environmental Flows.

    Environmental flows need to be clearly defined and mandatory for new and existing licences. Environmental flows should be encompassed in an expanded definition of “beneficial use”. The definition of beneficial use of water should not include uses that are destructive to the water itself.

    Greater public participation.

    Water licence applications and reviews should be made public and there should be opportunity for public participation in the application and review processes. The right to object to licence applications should not be limited as the WSA currently proposes. The WSA should strive to remove barriers of any kind from the establishment of local governance bodies. The process of creating regulations for the WSA should involve broad public and First Nations consultation.

    Ian Stephen

    User avatar
    [-] jenifer

    Many of the person’s commenting on this Act have asked for more time for comments to be posted. Is anyone listening? Will the comments that have been submitted actually be considered?
    To the legislators that will vote on this Act please educate yourselves by getting some independent water experts to speak to you on the various aspects of this Act. Let’s have binding legislation and not guidelines to be ignored at will.

    I am sure that there would be more comments if more people knew about this forum and had more time to comment. The only other reason I can think of for the low number of comments is that the citizens believe the government will do whatever they want anyway – without taking what the citizens want into real consideration (like what is happening with Site C dam).

    User avatar
    [-] Damien

    This limited window to review and engage with proposed updates to such a formative piece of legislation makes a mockery of the notion of public consultation.

    This while our government prorogues yet another session of the Legislature – avoiding the scrutiny of the Opposition while it drives forth major economic initiatives that pose a grave threat to BC’s freshwater.

    Site C Dam, fracking and LNG, private river power projects, myriad new mine proposals. All of these issues relate back to water. Neither this government nor this public consultation process seem interested in fundamentally addressing what is arguable the biggest issue of our time: WATER.

    Judging by the relatively few comments posted on these blogs and the extraordinarily condensed comment period, this engagement process has been a failure…at least if the goal was meaningful public participation. If the motives behind this process are of different nature, then perhaps it has been a smashing success.

    Damien Gillis

    User avatar
    [-] Toby

    We commend the staff at the ministry for the work they have done for the past three and a half years on modernizing the Water Act. They have done a great job, especially given the limitations of the process they had to work in.

    The latest legislative proposal is a very thorough document and provides a comprehensive summary of the key issues that need to be addressed in the new Act: environmental needs, land use, groundwater licensing, climate change, data collection, governance and implementation are all necessary components for effective water resource management in B.C.

    However, as is demonstrated by the specific and insightful commentary presented above (and elsewhere), when it comes to legislation, the devil is in the details. Unfortunately, we will not know those details until the act is presented to the Legislative Assembly for first reading sometime in the spring of 2014.
    Early indications from the province at the beginning of this consultation process were that draft legislation would be released for general review, comment and consultation, prior to enactment. Many would argue that this type of review would be a long, drawn out process and that the general principles and intentions presented in the legislative proposal are sufficient – we should leave it up to the experts to deal with the minutia and to define the law and subsequent regulations that enable these good things to be.

    But wait a minute. There remain a number of important questions that have yet to be answered in any of the discussion to date. For many of us the answer to these questions will affect the way we do our jobs and how we provide water to our residents. The list is almost endless, but includes:
    • Will the resources needed to implement the Act be available and how will they be paid for (how much will license and other fees increase to cover these costs)? For example, how are Water Sustainability Plans implemented, who pays for them and how will they be enforced?
    • How are Water Objectives determined and how do they apply to decision makers, licensees and third parties?
    • How will the Act be accommodated by other statutes and agencies governing crown land use (hopefully better than the Drinking Water Protection Act!)?
    • What is involved in a water license review, who pays for it and is it at the discretion of the decision maker?
    • What is the appeal procedure?
    Of course many of these questions will be dealt with over time as regulations are brought into force. Nonetheless, the Act provides the fundamental approach the law will take on these issues and it is important we get it right. All the more reason to release draft legislation for public review.

    As one person recently commented, “we’ve had the Water Act for a hundred years and we’ll probably have the Water Sustainability Act for a hundred more – what’s the rush?”

    Respectfully Submitted,

    Toby Pike, Chair
    Water Supply Association of B.C.
    p: (250) 861-4200
    c: (250 258-4010

    User avatar
    [-] Lydia

    Industry must stop desecrating water systems whether the lakes, rivers, ground water or ocean. It is ‘ecocide’ and must be made illegal. There are means to live in harmony with our amazingly wonderful world; it’s plants and animals. There are many clear minded and creative persons who need be allowed to speak and to help create a sane political (if this is not an oxymoron) system to nurture and enhance what we have instead of destroying the ground of our existence on planet earth.

    User avatar
    [-] Jason

    I am concerned that the proposed requirements for measuring and reporting usage of more than 250 cubic metres per day will increase input costs and lower productivity for farmers and ranchers.

    User avatar
    [-] Lauren

    I do not think that the alloted 2 weeks was enough time, especially since there was little to no news coverage on this topic. I talk to people and they have opinions and good feedback on what a provincial water act should include. However, they did not know about this new legislative proposal for the water sustainability act. I do not think that a real attempt to get public feedback on this issue was given by those proposing these mild changes to the WSA.

Comments are closed.