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Water Sustainability Act
|Created:||January 3, 2018|
The Water Sustainability Act updates and replaces the old Water Act and delivers on an important government commitment to ensure our water stays healthy and secure.
Dear Partners in Water Stewardship:
On February 29, 2016, the provincial government brought the Water Sustainability Act into force along with the first phase of regulations. The Water Sustainability Act updates and replaces the old Water Act and delivers on an important government commitment to ensure our water stays healthy and secure.
The new laws include licensing requirements for non-domestic groundwater users, e.g., irrigation, waterworks, industrial, or power purpose. The one-time licence application fee waiver period for existing groundwater users has been extended until March 1, 2019, to make sure users have every opportunity to take advantage of the savings (minimum $250), and to align with the deadline for existing groundwater users to submit an application and have their date of precedence recognized (see Blog Post #22).
Government is making improvements to the application process for existing groundwater water users to make it easier to apply for a licence. Processing the applications is taking government longer than anticipated; however, existing use applicants can continue to use the water lawfully beyond March 1, 2019, as long as an application has been submitted.
There are benefits to getting your groundwater licence application in by March 1, 2019 and having your priority date considered. Groundwater licensing gives BC’s businesses greater security by providing legal protection to your right to use the water for beneficial purposes. Licensing establishes your right, and provides fairness and clear rules for managing conflicts between water users during times of water scarcity. Licensing provides government with the information it needs to ensure our common resource is managed sustainably.
Domestic groundwater use is exempt from licensing and fees. A domestic groundwater user has a well and uses well water for household purposes, such as drinking, washing, watering a garden, or providing water for domestic animals and poultry. Domestic well owners are encouraged to register their well to make their water use known so it can be protected. Submit a well registration form to [email protected] Not sure if your well is already registered? Contact FrontCounter BC.
Other amendments include an extension of the temporary exemption from water authorization requirements for mineral exploration and small-scale placer mining activities, subject to requirements to protect fish and aquatic ecosystems, until December 31, 2018; an exemption for diversion of incidental groundwater seepage from a mine site; and correction of an inconsistency in application fees for permits over Crown land (see Blog Post #23).
In addition, new policies have been proposed for livestock watering regulations under the Water Sustainability Act. The proposed regulations will allow the diversion and use of water from a stream or aquifer for watering livestock without an authorization, and include the construction of works necessary for that diversion. This use will apply on Crown and private rangelands in particular circumstances and subject to specified requirements. Proposed policy objectives of livestock watering regulations are to:
Improve water management and the protection of the environment by facilitating the development of managed direct access sites and off-stream watering systems for livestock;
Apply on Crown and private rangelands where there is low livestock density and well distributed livestock use on the land;
Allow the diversion and use of water from a stream or aquifer for livestock watering without requiring an authorization, in particular circumstances and subject to specified requirements;
Allow construction of small scale works necessary for that diversion and use without an authorization or change approval, in particular circumstances and subject to specified requirements; and
Manage construction of instream works and water use by livestock with clear requirements to minimize any adverse effects on aquatic ecosystems and habitat.
Provisions of the proposed regulations will apply to livestock watering on Crown and private lands, but only in extensive use areas where there is low livestock density and well distributed livestock on the land. Under these circumstances the water use by livestock is considered insignificant. The construction of managed direct access or stream diversion works on private land will be allowed subject to the general requirements of Part 3 of the Water Sustainability Regulation, and any terms and conditions specified by a habitat officer in response to a notification. On Crown land under a Range Act tenure the construction of managed direct access or stream diversion works will be exempt from the notification requirements of Part 3, but continue to be regulated under applicable standards and regulations under the Forest and Range Practices Act and the Range Act.
An intentions paper that provides more details on the proposed livestock watering regulations is under development. Public comment will be invited on the proposals outlined in the intentions paper, anticipated to be posted early in 2018 on the Water Sustainability Act blog at http://engage.gov.bc.ca/watersustainabilityact/.
More information about the Water Sustainability Act and the new regulations can be found on the Province’s water website. For specific direction and guidance on how to apply for a groundwater licence, please visit FrontCounter BC.
Living Water Smart Team
Email: [email protected]
FrontCounter BC: www.frontcounterbc.ca
Water website: www.gov.bc.ca/water
WSA Blog: http://engage.gov.bc.ca/watersustainabilityact/