Blog Post #24 – Proposed Livestock Watering Regulations

Livestock that graze on range land drink water directly from streams and other water bodies, as well as from off-stream watering systems such as a watering trough. Managing livestock watering by limiting access through riparian areas and keeping livestock out of streams helps to protect water quality and aquatic ecosystem health.

Government released an intentions paper proposing new regulations that would improve livestock watering practices on range land where there is low-density livestock grazing on Crown land and private range lands. The proposed regulations would allow the diversion of water from a stream or aquifer for livestock watering and also allow for construction of livestock watering works, subject to requirements that will minimize adverse effects on aquatic ecosystems.

Pending government review and approval, the proposed policies would be incorporated into new regulations later this year.

We invited you to share your thoughts about the proposed policies by leaving a comment below or sending an email to by February 16, 2018.



    User avatar
    [-] Andy

    Cattle are part of the rural community. They are also good for the province. It is hard to fathom that we have to fight to get water for them Government should stick to governing and not think it should control everything.

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    [-] James

    I am a rancher from Rock Creek BC , my family has been in this valley since 1907 . We range our cattle on crown land, they are presently being watered by over 20 large dugouts, our cattle range over a large area and need water to survive. We make every effort to manage our range, conserve grass and riparian areas to the best of our abilities.
    In recent years the large lumber companies have been logging out our watersheds drainage by drainage causing far more destruction and site degradation than cattle ever have.
    How are we suppose to manage our resources responsibly under these conditions.
    There needs to be a lot more consultation with all industry players on the land.
    Timber needs to be put back under the forest service umbrella rather than industry.
    All resources need to be managed much more responsibly with full accountability to the Ministry .

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    [-] david

    As a rancher in the Southern Interior of BC I fully support the draft stock watering regulations. I believe the measures identified in the intentions paper provide security for livestock watering as well as protection in the watersheds. There are best management practices in place for stock watering. The paper clearly identifies that in some watersheds additional measures may need to be taken and outlines what those expectations are. Access to water on crown grazing is critical to ensure the sustainability of the ranching industry in BC. I would hope that there would be some protection of unregistered off stream waters for livestock from being licenced or used for domestic residential purposes.

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    [-] Peter

    I ranch in the Brisco area in the East Kootenays. This is a positive step forward that ensures ranchers can development livestock watering systems that protect water quality downstream.

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    [-] Allan

    Actually cattle watering in creeks and rivers is healthy for the ecosystem- absolutely water ways need organic matter to promote ‘food’ growth for fish etc. It is only humans that don’t like organic matter in water – not a problem if a well is drilled, or surface water treated before drinking.
    There is no way it is feasible on ‘range’ to keep cattle out of waterways. Only people who don’t understand the rural setting and the wilderness . Wildlife all use surface water and disturb it.

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    [-] >

    We object to the diversion of water from any moving water body, or the taking of water from any body (stationary), or the depletion of or removal of water from an aquifer, UNLESS there has been a competent, independent, professional environmental impact assessment that incorporates:
    – global climate change,
    – cumulative effects,
    – all impacts on native biodiversity, including threatened and endangers species and populations, and
    – possible changes in ecological function that may arise from unnatural attraction of an altered water body, and water “works” to wildlife, with evidence presented, and analysis made, of changes in movements and distribution, potential predator attention or concentration, and
    – risk to all wildlife population and INDIVIDUALS that could result from human focus of activity , including hunting and “control” behavior on those water sources.

    Further, we object to the construction of “works” on public land UNLESS it it legally and contractually agreed that the PUBLIC – the people of B.C. – and NOT the permittee or livestock operator or manager – are the sole owners of such “works”.

    Finally, there must be in the regulations provision for public reporting of violations of the regulations by permittees, such that the public can enforce the regulations and bring about changes when violations are observed , recorded, and reported.

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    [-] alg

    This comment is on behalf of Boundary Environmental Alliance
    where the absurd public and environmental costs of cattle-grazing on public lands (Range land) have been documented for years, including water contamination and damage.
    The proposed regulations with the numerous misleading statements in the Intentions Papers make us doubt that this is a credible process.
    Anyone who thinks this narrowly focused attempt to respond to the wants of the cattle industry will result in meaningful improvements is ignoring the history and the failures of oversight agencies to prevent damage and public cost.

    A few of the problems associated with cattle grazing:
    grassland and riparian degradation…..
    absurd water consumption raising low value crops…..
    water contamination…..
    cattle contribution to weed spread, cheat grass and other invasives…..
    public fencing costs (decaying infrastructure which will result in huge public cost.)…..
    ecological-restoration costs (millions in public funds spent to repair damage, without removing the primary root cause, cattle)…..
    lost opportunity costs……
    increased fire risk (and fire season) from cattle induced cheat grass infestations…..
    forest regrowth damage…..
    conflicts with wildlife, habitat, food…..
    growing awareness of cattle contribution to global warming……

    An extended version of our submission to Government will be posted soon on our website above.
    Our recommendation in that submission is that these proposals should be shelved pending a full comprehensive and independent economic analysis of public land (Range) use to include public and environmental costs including lost opportunity costs.
    It is our expectation that an independent, objective analysis would show that the public cost of Range use greatly exceeds the Public benefits, even before the inclusion of lost opportunity costs. Similar analysis in the US (with a similar range use regime) shows that public costs far exceed benefits, to the point that it would be cheaper in the mid to long term to pay ranchers to relinquish grazing permits, for payment. Paying ranchers in effect for grazing rights that they do not in fact “own.”

    Proposal of a full economic/environmental assessment/study then poses a difficult question.
    No Ministry in our experience could be relied upon to produce or commission such a study without inserting the usual bias in favour of the ranching industry.

    Perhaps it is a job for the Auditor General

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    [-] W.D.

    I have a simple concern for the all too frequent use of the phrase “Authorization not required for diversion and use of water from a stream……” . Simply put I believe this provision will grant to much permission and leaves far to much room for abuses and in the process will damage wild fish stocks . The local cattle industry has frequently polluted streams – I can even cite a specific ranch as being a significant polluters if needed with dates and photos. Which suggests there will be ranches that will not respect the intent of this law . There are too many studies of abuses of water resources by ranchers and the wild fish that inhabit them from south of the border. We are no better than them. Why does this have to be unregulated? What is wrong with this be activity needing permits and oversight? What short term benefit is there that out ways long term careful planning and management of our water and fisheries?
    Why is this historically dirty industry in need of less restrictions?
    Too few industries are honest enough to be unregulated.
    What’s this going save the Gov’t …. a few bucks . What funds have been aside to do restoration when this goes wrong?

    Please rethink these proposed changes

    User avatar
    [-] Linda

    As a rancher in the Southern Interior of BC I fully support the draft stock watering regulations. I believe the measures identified in the intentions paper provide security for livestock watering as well as protection in the watersheds. There are best management practices in place for stock watering. The paper clearly identifies that in some watersheds additional measures may need to be taken and outlines what those expectations are. In the Ranching Task Force document of 2009, access to water by livestock was clearly agreed to as a high priority to be captured in regulations. Access to water on crown grazing is critical to ensure the sustainability of the ranching industry in BC

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    [-] Petra

    Please consider the needs of our livestock for water, and minimize producers having to deal with licensing of groundwater. We went through the latest licensing and it was hugely time consuming. We already work incredibly long hours for very little monetary gain.

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    [-] Brian

    I am a rancher in the Hat Creek Valley, I have read the paper on livestock watering and support the proposal for water security for the ranch. Our cattle need water on the range otherwise we can not utilize the forage for feed and also for creating fire breaks from the grazing. So the cattle are working on crown lands to help control wildfires as I have seen fires going out when reaching grazed areas. Cattle are a great tool that must be used on crown and private properties for fire suppression. Water storage is also needed on range for cattle, wildlife and pulling/pumping out of to extinguish fires. IE, Choppers.
    Thank you.

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    [-] Morgan

    This comment is being provided on behalf of the membership of Kootenay Livestock Association. We are an Association that represents the Cattle Ranching industry in the Kootenays of British Columbia. We have a diverse range of operations, from Guest Ranches, to larger private land grazing operations, to the common family herd relying on public range lands for summer grazing. We applaud the efforts and acknowledgement in this proposal to ensure the Ranching Industry has future access to water for watering livestock. We wholeheartedly agree with the 2009 Ranching Task force that “water use by livestock is a high priority”. Access to water sources is essential for effective ranching and range use practices. The proposal to remove licencing for diversions is a helpful measure, and a good idea that will encourage future developments to help alleviate pressures placed on waterways. Specification pertaining to the types of developments and their purposes is also very helpful and will clear up any confusions for those in need of such developments. However, we do have some concerns relating to this proposal. In a few instances, this proposal makes reference to the Environmental Management Act and its Agricultural Wast Control Regulation. In this it is stated that it will “ensure agricultural waste does not cause pollution.” Our concern is over the vagueness of this statement. To which regulations are we placing the definition of “pollution”? To not provide concrete science in governmental policies only sets them up to be vague, argumentative, and often times damaging to the industry they are placed upon. Also, in this proposal, there is no indication that there will not be future increased costs accrued to the industry in relation to animals on range and water use. It is indicated the minimal amount of usage of available water consumed by livestock in BC, however, minimal impact or usage has not stopped charges from being placed on industry in the past. More costs are damaging and harmful to an already stretched industry. Lastly, it is mentioned that exceptions may be included to gracing activities on Treaty Settlement or Title Lands. What assurances do those involved in the industry have that these exceptions may not be very detrimental to their operations? Beyond these concerns we are grateful for what appears to be access to engineers and officers in the creation of projects that require diversion practices. This access will only help us all to ensure that there is no implications for the future of these developments, but that they were completed with the correct practices and authority involved. Again, thank-you for this commenting period and opportunity.

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    [-] Russ

    As long as “requirements that will minimize adverse effects on aquatic ecosystems” are respected, this seems like an improvement over cattle directly in streams, which I thought was already illegal. If the water diversion returns to the stream, the danger of pollution persists. If the diversion does not return to the stream, then a deleterious effect on aquatic ecosystems is inevitable.

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    [-] Renee

    The following are comments are being submitted to the livestock watering regulations intention paper.
    1) Why are “Community Watershed” not recognized in the paper.
    2) The Regional District of North Okanagan is the main water license holder in the Duteau, Coldstream Creek and Deer Creek Watersheds. These “Community Watersheds” have multi land use including range tenures. These watersheds provide water to 55,000 residents, agriculture, commercial, institutional and industrial properties in the Greater Vernon area. Although we agree with these best management practices to have managed water access and off -stream watering sites we would want to be notified of the construction or any diversion work (even minor).
    3) The Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resources; Ministry of Agriculture, plus Forest and Range Tenures are stakeholders in our Watershed Assessment Response Plans. RDNO has worked with the ranchers and the Ministry to identify vulnerable and sensitive areas to insure these areas have no water quality impacts from range. Direct access on the main stem streams is not recommended.

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    [-] Marion

    The Ranching Industry needs this type of policy so there isn’t all the red tape to go through and make it easier to actually do this type of work. The Ranchers are very concerned about this as it is their living and welfare of there livestock.

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    [-] taryn

    Proposed Livestock Watering Regulations how do i get a copy of this report and its phtos

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    [-] Living

    Thanks for the question. Hover over “intentions paper” in the second paragraph of the blog post and the link will open a pdf version of the intentions paper which you can read, print or save.

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    [-] David

    I think this a giant leap in the right direction to help keep agriculture and water resources healthy.

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    [-] Deverne

    The overflows on off stream watering systems should be piped back into the streams and not just left to overfiow onto the ground. as is the case on the Mcmurrdo Pastures above the community of Parson. There are many licenced downstream users that could use the water , in lower fiow seasons. The systems shouid be monitored to make sure it is being done.

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    [-] Deverne

    There is a lot mentioned about protecting aquatic ecosystems , an important issue. Maybe I have missed something, but I never noticed anything about downstream domestic and irrigation users downstream of livestock watering systems , which is my situation. I live below the mcmurdo pastures in Parson B C . I have two water licences o n Monteagle Creek, a very sensitive creek. Off stream watering systems are being used for cattle . On all the systems that I have noticed the overfiows are just running out onto the ground. The overfiow shouid be piped back into the stream, which is very easily done. The water on this creek should be conserved , as I have already mentioned how sensitive this creek is. Downstream users should also be recognized.

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    [-] Mark

    Unrestricted access, by cattle in particular, into any riparian zone for the purpose of livestock self-watering is destructive. Even the BC Cattlemen’s Association recognizes that cattle self-watering is not a favourable practice. See:
    Restricting cattle from access to the riparian zone cannot be left up to some kind of voluntary participation by livestock producers. Any access into the riparian zone needs strict regulations and most importantly there needs to be effective enforcement.
    The argument that a livestock producer will experience hardship if required to fence along riparian zones should be determined on a case by case basis. If indeed hardship is demonstrated by the producer then the producer should have access to funds to offset the hardship.
    But bottom line – cattle production is a for-profit business that has been allowed the advantage of lack of regulations in supplying water for their product for far too long. In British Columbia ownership of water and most stream beds is held by the Crown and not by an adjacent landowner and livestock producer. They do not have the right to treat the water, the stream bed or the riparian zone as a private resource.

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    [-] Scott

    Conceptually an OK idea although that would mostly require fencing along any potable natural water sources at a great expense and some difficulty to some party. I also believe that there are other more abusive industries to our watershed and outflow than cattle. I would think that you may need to discontinue free range programs in ecologically more sensitive areas.

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    [-] mary

    ALL sources of water should be highly protected! All animals ,,especially the ones we eat need CLEAN drinking water. So why not do something ground- breaking ,seek the best brains to create solutions even if that requires searching the globe! PLEASE!

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    [-] Debby

    I live in a rural community (of $12,000 people and up stream from other towns and cities) where cows freely entering into the Goat River, Kootenay River, channels, and Kootenay Lake. Even if cows are restricted from going into the water there doesn’t seem to be anyone to regulate this. This is an area where there are other ways to water cattle. This isn’t just about the cows drinking water, it is also about cows wading into the water in the summer and crossing the ice in the winter and falling through the ice, drowning (to never be recovered except perhaps by a swimmer).

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    [-] Darcy

    It is nice to see a proposal that reduces red tape and facilitates positive actions that can protect water. I see the definitions for extensive and intensive uses help distinguish between cases where a license would not or still would be required. I see reference to examples of in-stream and off-stream watering systems that help provide for the needs of cattle while also protecting water quality and aquatic health. I also imagine this reduces a financial and time barrier that is currently preventing some grazing license or lease holders from implementing the improved watering systems, and that helps environmental charities and others fund and implement those types of projects with the least administrative burden. Those initiatives have added potential to enhance or continue protecting fish populations and habitats for Species At Risk in the riparian zone. I also appreciated the context, whereby the environmental impacts of 200,000 cattle spread out on BC interior rangelands are far less than the intensive agriculture, logging, urban, transportation, and recreational development of >1,000,000 people inhabiting the same area of the BC interior. Much more water is used for human domestic, industrial, and irrigation purposes, with much greater waste and impact on quality and quantity.

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    [-] Roxanne

    The proposals are a step in the right direction. We need to ensure our water is protected from contamination.

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    [-] June

    I would like to know what “unrecorded water” means? Much of our above ground water and aquifers are “unrecorded”. This needs to be defined.

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    [-] Howard

    I live in the Kootenay’s adjacent to the Creston Valley Wildlife Managment Area. CVWMA. Grazing permits are part of the CVWMA . Boulder Creek runs through these managed lands. In 2004 a CVWMA Managment Plan was written. Salmonoids particularly the Kokanee Salmon were addressed. Livestock Grazing was also identified as a concern.
    An attempt to place Kokanee eggs in Boulder has creek failed.
    Livestock fencing with barbed wire also failed. The creek is used to water the cattle and a place to cool off.
    I thought perhaps there might be a fish population protection order in place. But I can’t find any evidence of such an order.
    Seems that will be the only way to help rejuvenate a once abundant Spawning creek.
    It’s been 14 years since the Managment Plan .. but the cattle still seem to have the run of the creek and the run of the lakefront riparian area on Kootenay Lake.

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    [-] Ann

    No, growing beef is the worst waste of water on the planet, do not make it easier to use the water. Leave our waterways as they are.

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    [-] Carol

    Most of the ranges in BC are unfenced large areas with multiple streams and to expect the rancher to keep the cattle out of riparian zones is unreasonable. With the low stocking rates, they do no more damage to the area than any of the existing wildlife. Do you not think that the elk, deer etc leave behind feces…or fall through the ice? The cattle on range are an integral part of forest fire control and they need water..period.

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