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September 24, 2015

BC: New Water Policies Cover Licensing Groundwater Use, Water Rights, and Provisions for Dam Safety

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Much of the detail related to implementation of BC’s new Water Sustainability Act will be provided in regulations and operation policies. Due to the complexity of the new act and the number of proposed regulations, government is taking a phased approach to implementation. Four papers describing proposed new policies have been released and relate to core water management activities. The papers discuss:

  • Licensing groundwater use and assigning related water rights. The Act will, for the first time in British Columbia, require licences for groundwater use for non-domestic purposes. Proposed policies encourage existing groundwater users to apply early for a licence. For example, application fees for applications submitted within the first 12 months of the proposed three-year Transition Period will be waived (these costs are estimated to range from C$250 to C$10,000). Fees for water use for existing users who apply for licences in the Transition Period will be backdated to the date the Act comes into force
  • Constructing and maintaining wells and protecting groundwater, including the management of artesian flows and the deactivation and decommissioning of unused wells. In particular, a new Groundwater Protection Regulation will add requirements regarding: professional qualifications needed to drill groundwater wells; the siting of water supply and dewatering wells (including setbacks for new wells from existing wells); storm water recharge (from urban runoff) and injection wells; and controlling artesian flow (including well design and reporting)
  • Provisions to enhance dam safety and reduce risk related to a dam failure, including more stringent requirements for emergency planning and annual review of downstream conditions 
  • New offences and fines - including offences related to the use of water, groundwater licensing, and enhanced protection of aquatic ecosystems - will be introduced through amendments to the Violation Ticket Administration and Fines Regulation, which lists the provisions of provincial legislation for which non-compliance can be addressed with tickets. In addition, new fines will be added to cover certain offences
Pending government review and approval, the proposed policies are to be incorporated into new regulations that will come into force along with the Water Sustainability Act in 2016.


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