Water Sustainability Act - Fees

A significant good news item in the proposal for the new Water Sustainability Act (WSA) is that groundwater will be regulated. However the devil is in the details and the bad news is that there are some unsettling details in how the government proposes to regulate groundwater.

sinking_penny.jpgOne of those details is the fees charged for industrial use of groundwater.

When people found out earlier this year that large corporations like Nestle are taking groundwater in BC for free, it was very clear that the current situation was not acceptable. People from all walks of life did not think that corporations should be extracting unlimited groundwater for free.

If current rates for industrial water users remain and are applied to groundwater licences, most will pay a mere 85 cents per 1000 cubic meters of water. For comparison, the city of Chilliwack charges residents $1.22 per 100 cubic feet of water, which works out to $430.84 per 1000 cubic meters.  Chilliwack residents also pay a quarterly water-meter fee. Does this seem fair to you?


1,000 cubic meters of groundwater (1 million litres)


Chilliwack Family





 (Note: residential & industry fees don't directly compare. See this article & comments below)

The government has admitted that the current rates do not cover the cost of administering the water licence program and they have stated that they are considering changes to the structure and rates. This is where we have an opportunity to speak up! 

Join us in making the call that industrial water user fees should be raised to not only cover administrative costs but also be used to create a pool of money specific to the needs of building a world-class water management system.

We believe a world-class water management system must involve local control over water decisions.

Local control may be exercised under the WSA through Water Sustainability Plans; watershed-level plans that could allow local people, with provincial oversight, to manage their home waters in ways tailored to their local circumstances. Water Sustainability Plans provide the best tool in the proposal to respond to local needs and changing conditions, but as it stands the proposal does not fund the creation and implementation of these plans. The people-power and funding to create Water Sustainability Plans would have to come from outside of government, meaning local people may have to come up with the resources to create and implement these plans. This could create a barrier to having plans put in place where they are needed.

To be clear, rates charged for water should not go to General Revenue, but rather to a specific water management fund.

This is a critical time for British Columbia.  We can expect this Water Sustainability Act to govern how our home waters are used for many decades to come. 

This page is part of a series designed to help the reader take the Water Sustainability Act proposal in sips rather than one big gulp.  Check our other info pages for additional topics, 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 protected]

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!




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Showing 3 reactions

commented 2013-11-07 12:56:57 -0800 · Flag
Hi Ian, I agree that water license rental fees are too low, and that this is a very reasonable way to recoup the costs of implementing the Water Sustainability Act and supporting better water management in BC.

commented 2013-11-06 11:54:44 -0800 · Flag
Thanks Anna, and you’re right on about the difference between what residents pay their local governments and what large scale water users pay the province.

Our objective here was to show how absurdly low the provincial water fees are and to call for those rates to be raised sufficiently to cover the costs of implementing ideas in the Water Sustainability Act proposal that would be beneficial in pursuing the best and most sustainable use of water in BC.

I’ll flag your concern in the post itself, with your comment for explanation. It’s a good one!
commented 2013-11-06 09:51:11 -0800 · Flag
I appreciate what you are getting at here, but I don’t think this post is comparing apples to apples. It looks like you are comparing the rates of water license rental fees (that could be applied to Nestle) with the cost of water treatment and delivery to residents of Chilliwack. If the Chilliwack water utility is operating under a waterworks license (which is likely), it also pays low water rental fees ($1.10/cubic metre), which would be passed along to their users as a tiny fraction of their bill (less than a dollar a year).

I think it’s important that people understand the difference, so that they know their water bills won’t be affected if water license rental fees are increased. I also think it’s important that people understand how much effort goes into treating and delivering high quality drinking water.