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Working Together for a #strongWSA

 

On February 29th, 2016 the BC government officially brought the Water Sustainability Act (WSA) into force with the release of a first set of new and updated regulations. The regulations included—for the first time ever—rules to regulate non-domestic groundwater extractions, new rates for water withdrawals, and more.

Despite the date of its release, the act isn’t exactly a leap forward, although it is a step in the right direction. The Act has been several years in the making, and is in large part the result of public pressure calling for increased oversight and protection of the waters we share—our lifeblood.

The new regulations have some strengths. For example, non-domestic groundwater use must now be licensed, and must recognize the connection between groundwater and surface water. As well, water users will pay, and pay more, for ground and surface withdrawals, which will help raise money to properly monitor and enforce protection of our water resources.

However, there are some significant concerns. For example, while the WSA requires decision-makers to consider environmental flows needs – leaving enough water in streams for healthy aquatic ecosystems – when issuing licenses to new water users, they are exempt from this requirement when granting licenses for existing groundwater users. That means unsustainable water use could get “locked in” for years to come, potentially creating conflicts between water users and infringing on aboriginal fishing rights. We are exploring what could be done to push back on this situation.

The WSA is far from being a done deal. New regulations will continue to be developed over the next couple years, in areas such as monitoring and reporting, watershed planning and governance, water objectives, and agricultural and livestock watering. We must be vigilant and stay involved as key regulations are developed.

Regulations are like paddles to a canoe. But without rigorous and prudent regulations, and proper resources to implement, the canoe could be left with just one paddle. We don’t want to paddle in circles—we want to move forward.

Join us in demanding a fair, just and #strongWSA. Sign up to let us know we can call on you when the time is right to show government that we care about our waters.

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Learn More!

CPR for Rivers - the Need for Regulations to Conserve, Protect, and Restore Environmental Flows in BC (blog post, West Coast Environmental Law)

Environmental Sector Expectations for Environmental Flows Regulation (WCEL)

Awash with Opportunity: Ensuring the Sustainability of British Columbia's New Water Law - POLIS Project