Since the Water Sustainability Act (WSA) and related regulations came into force on February 29, 2016, input from water stakeholders as well as internal review identified several instances in which the initial wording of the Water Sustainability Regulation was unclear or did not fully reflect government’s policy intent. Government has therefore amended the regulation as follows:
- Section 55 (4) now clarifies that government decision-makers will have discretion to consider environmental flow needs (EFNs) when adjudicating applications for pre-existing groundwater use. The requirement that EFNs must be considered in adjudicating new groundwater and surface water applications received after February 29, 2016 will continue.
- A new section 56 confirms that a person who holds a permit under section 10 of the Mines Act to carry out placer mining or mineral exploration activities does not need a water use authorization under the WSA during the 2016 calendar year. This amendment continues a policy where small operators with a Mines Act permit could use water without the need for a water authorization, subject to specified terms and conditions. More information is provided in this Information Update.
- A new section 2.1 exempts a range practice from section 46 (1) of the WSA if the practice is already subject to section 46 of the Forest and Range Practices Act. This amendment ensures that the language of the Water Sustainability Regulation aligns with existing requirements of the Forest and Range Practices Act.
The above amendments are described in Order in Council #233 and come into effect immediately. The amendments will be reflected in a consolidated version of the Water Sustainability Regulation that will be posted to BC Laws in the coming weeks.
Government will continue to review the WSA and related regulations as it implements the new provincial water sustainability framework to ensure it is consistent with the policy intent. Ongoing input from British Columbians, with respect to the policies described in the new regulations, is a valuable part of this process.