It’s been a busy month for the WaterWealth Project. One unique opportunity was a meeting with Her Honour Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon. Earlier this month, Sheila Muxlow and Natalie Jones – two Chilliwack residents – travelled to Victoria seeking insights from Her Honour’s history of action and leadership on local water protection and management issues, a matter of great interest to the two WaterWealth organizers.
“In the years before taking office, along with a great deal of other community contributions, Her Honour invested a lot of time to see her home waters in the Nicola Valley protected as they should be,” stated Jones. “What the people of Nicola were trying to accomplish was very inspiring to us; it’s the kind of thing we’d like to see happen here in the Fraser Valley.”
She is referring to the Nicola Water Use Management Plan (WUMP), which was created by an incredibly diverse set of community members on the “multi-stakeholder committee” – including Her Honour – over a number of years. The final plan was released in 2010, and has been held up as a roadmap of what local control of watersheds could look like.
However, the Nicola WUMP was never actually implemented. What happened?
“We learned that the WUMP stalled due to legislative red-tape and a lack of resources,” explains Muxlow. “It is so saddening to see all those thousands of hours volunteered towards local solutions lie dormant.”
But the two organizers with the local WaterWealth Project aren’t discouraged. “A lot of the roadblocks to implementing the Nicola WUMP, from what we can tell, resulted from very antiquated water laws in this province - the 104 year old Water Act,” shares Jones. “Presently, that legislation is being modernized with the proposed Water Sustainability Act. In this proposed legislation, we see room being created for local control initiatives, such as ‘watershed sustainability plans’.”
But it’s not all good news.
“Creating these mechanisms for local control of our home waters will take resources,” chimes Muxlow. She notes, “the new Water Sustainability Act provides an opportunity to raise commercial and industrial water rates from the token amount they are now, to a level where water governance can be self-sustaining. In the new Act we need to see fees that reflect the true value of our shared waters and for those revenues to go to a dedicated fund for good water management, not into general revenues as is currently written.”
Jones concludes, “The WaterWealth Project is proud to share with Her Honour a vision of good stewardship of our shared home waters, so that the water wealth we are privileged with now can be passed to our children undiminished.”
The BC government welcomed feedback from the public on the proposed Water Sustainability Act (WSA) for one month up to November 15, and until December 2 for First Nations. WaterWealth worked to support community members to engage in that process via their WSA Toolkit, in-person support to draft submissions at the WSA Engagement Open House, and a social media campaign to urge participation.
Also this month, WaterWealth has been out in the community at events like the annual Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival, and making presentations to groups such as the Fraser Valley Watershed Coalition and Stó:lō Nation’s People of the River Referrals Office.