April 22, 2014

British Columbia’s current Water Act, established in 1909, has been the primary piece of legislation on water management in the province. Throughout the 20th century, the province has experienced dramatic changes, including population growth, urban development and economic diversification. Over the years, each time the province has encountered newer, more complex challenges regarding water use and quality, amendments have been added to the original Act. Examples include clauses to protect the environment in the 1960s and measures for the protection of the water quality added in 2004.

Maintaining adequate water resources with acceptable quality are becoming the dilemma of the new millennium, leading many to believe that fresh water –not oil- will define prosperity for the coming generations.  Managing B.C.’s water resources have presented challenges in recent years. Examples include excessive groundwater pumping in the Okanagan Valley and the Cowichan River coming close to running out of water in October 2012.

British Columbia has come forward just in time to renew its water management regulations. Following an extensive consultation with citizens, First Nations organizations, and stakeholder groups, a new Water Sustainability policy proposal was prepared in 2010/2011. A proposed Legislative Act was subsequently set forward for review and commentary in October/November of 2013. The government is currently preparing a final version of the legislation, set to be formally introduced in the legislature in spring 2014.

The new Water Sustainability Act aims at making improvements in seven key areas: protecting stream health and aquatic environments, considering water in land use decisions, regulating and protecting groundwater, regulating water use during times of scarcity, improving water security and efficient water use and conservation, measuring and reporting large-scale water use, and governance approaches.

By Farr Fatemi, ffatemi@delphi.ca