Groundwater licensing likely to be included in a new water act

Work continues on a new water act for B.C. but it's not expected it will be debated in the legislature before 2014.

B.C. is the only province in Canada that doesn’t licence groundwater, despite the fact its Water Act includes provision for it.

And, according to environment ministry policy advisor Randy Cairns, public discussion about a new water act in the past few years indicates there is public support for groundwater licensing.

Cairns was speaking to members of the Okanagan Water Stewardship Council about the history of provincial legislation surrounding water, and about the current process to modernize it.

The new act is to be called the Water Sustainability Act and it was to have been enacted this year, but it’s been held up by the public’s interest in continuing discussions on what’s being proposed before it’s passed into legislation, said Cairns.

He expects the next step will be a discussion paper with more detail about what’s proposed for the new act, and a period for public input on those details before staff are directed to write the new legislation in legal language.

That’s a lengthy process which he figures could take a year, so it’s likely to be 2014 before a new act comes before the legislature for debate.

If it includes more regulation of groundwater, there are a number of issues still to be resolved, he noted.

For instance, how would the current 75,000 users fit into the legislation? Would all users be licensed, or just medium-sized and large or just large users?

Likely, groundwater licensing would be similar to the current licensing of surface water and the two would be linked, he said.

Currently, anyone can drill a well and begin to draw from underground aquifers without charge, even though no one can draw water from a creek or lake without a permit from the provincial government, and regular fee payments.

Seven policies have been identified as part of the framework of the new act:

*protect stream health and aquatic environments;

*consider water in land-use decisions;

*regulate groundwater use;

*regulate during scarcity;

*improve security, water use efficiency and conservation;

*measure and report; and

*enable a range of governance approaches.

This province’s current Water Act was brought in in 1909, with major revisions in 1925 when it was determined that the province owns the water resource; 1939 when regulations were brought in for acquisition of a water licence; 1960 when groundwater was added and environmental protection introduced; and 1979 to 1992 when a variety of changes were made.

In B.C. water rights are based on FITFIR or First In Time, First In Right, so those with the oldest licences on a body of water take precedence over those with more recent licences, in times of scarcity.

Licences are attached to properties, and when the property is sold, the water rights go with it, along with the obligations.





Just Posted

Valley Road closed 24-7, for now

Kelowna road closure extended due to safety concerns to build creek retaining wall

Accused killer’s fate in the hands of Kelowna jury

The jury is expected to start deliberating this afternoon

Silver Creek RCMP search expands north

RCMP were seen collecting evidence three kilometres north of the farm where human remains were found

Above and beyond for the United Way

Local company keeps on raising money for the United Way of the Central Okanagan

Have your say on downtown parking in Kelowna

Open house scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 24.

Rally condemns violence, promotes healing

Discovery of human remains and disappearances of women have created tension in the rural community

Justice to decide court’s jurisdiction over Indigenous man

Alex Louie, also known as Senklip, is standing trial over 9 charges related to alleged gun smuggling

Province grants $784,000 for Okanagan projects

Rural Dividend grants support Okanagan community projects

B.C. NDP convention set for Victoria

Premier, federal leader Jagmeet Singh to add energy

B.C. school trustee calls LGBTQ school program ‘weapon of propaganda’

Chilliwack’s Barry Neufeld published the comments on his Facebook page

B.C. couple hope boat drone becomes first to cross Atlantic

Colin and Julie Angus of Victoria to have drone collect environmental data en route

Driver trapped for 16 hours after car flips

Member of Anarchist Mountain Volunteer Fire Department in Osoyoos made discovery while out for walk

Penticton pilots new mobile parking payment app

Eliminating the need to carry change for parking meters

Most Read