New in the Water Sustainability Act (WSA) proposal, and very near to our hearts at WaterWealth, are the opportunities for public participation and local control in water planning and decision-making.
Two ways this can occur are Area Based Regulations, and Water Sustainability Plans. They could apply to any aspects of water governance and all water users, to enable addressing needs arising in any particular locale. One example might be Fort St. James where depending on the final definition of saline aquifers in the Act, the city may find itself competing with the fracking industry for water. Area-based regulations or a local Water Sustainability Plan could give the city an avenue to address that conflict.
Area-based regulations are the more agile approach. Meant to be both proactive and reactive in support of adaptable water management by removing or reducing exemptions and thresholds under the WSA.
Water Sustainability Plans would be broader and require more work to put in place. They would be developed through a collaborative public process and provide opportunity for community-driven solutions. They would integrate land and water use within the plan area and incorporate community and regional needs including environmental flows and food security.
The WSA proposal does not touch on funding and resourcing local water planning initiatives. If area-based regulations and Water Sustainability Plans are to be effective, there needs to be sufficient support for their implementation. This is one of the reasons that many British Columbians are calling for an increase in water rental fees paid by large water users. Fees paid for water use should fund effective water governance.
Another area in need of strengthening with regard to local control is in the granting and appeal of water licences. As it stands only government agencies, First Nations, affected licensees, riparian owners and owners of land physically affected by the proposed works would receive notice of water licence applications. Only other applicants, licensees, riparian owners and owners of land physically affected can make a formal objection to an application for a water licence.
We are calling for government to ensure:
- That water rental fees be raised sufficiently to create a fund through which local control would be enabled.
- That any local water governance bodies or advisory committees created under the WSA have First Nations and public representation and that proceedings and recommendations of these committees be public.
- That licence reviews, setting of water objectives, setting of environmental flows, creation of area based regulation, and water efficiency standards will include public consultation.
- That applications for new licences be made public and that members of the public are allowed to object to water licences or appeal licences to the Environmental Appeal Board.
This is a critical time for British Columbia. We can expect this Water Sustainability Act to fundamentally shape how our home waters are governed for many decades to come. Read more about the implications of this proposal on our other info pages, and please provide your thoughts to the government by the November 15 deadline.
Comments to government can be made on the Water Sustainability Act blog
(click on any blog post title to get to comments for that post)
or by email to email@example.com
by fax to (250) 356-1202
or by mail to Water Sustainability Act, Ministry of Environment, Water Protection and Sustainability Branch, PO Box 9362 Stn Prov Gov, Victoria BC, V8W 9M2.
Let's make sure BC gets this right!
- Image Kawishiwi Falls.jpg courtesy Jon 'ShakataGaNai' Davis