Water Sustainability Act protects B.C’s precious resource

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Mary Polak Minister of Environment
Mary Polak Minister of Environment
Mary Polak
Minister of Environment

Victoria: When it comes into force next year, British Columbia’s new Water Sustainability Act (WSA) will ensure our water is properly regulated, protected and conserved for future generations. It will do this by, among other things, regulating groundwater for the first time, knowing how much water is being used and ensuring our streams and waterways remain healthy. And in times of drought, the new law allows government to step in to ensure water is first used to preserve human life and food production.
Implementing the new WSA comes with a price. New staff will be hired and new systems will be developed to bring B.C.’s water law into the 21st century. To pay for these costs we’ve recently amended the water fees and rentals that water users pay. The new fee structure will cover the costs of implementing the new WSA, and not a penny more.
Through our public consultation process, which began in 2009 and is among the most thorough consultations government has ever undertaken, people were very clear that they did not want government treating such an essential resource like a commodity to make a profit from. British Columbia has never made of profit from water and we’re not about to start. The fees we’re charging will cover the additional costs incurred by having modern legislation. However it is the new tools within the legislation itself that will allow us to conserve, preserve and protect our water resources.
The new fees charged are based on the amount of water to be used and what it will be used for. For example industrial users such as mining, the oil and gas sector or water botting operations will pay the hightest rate. Agriculture, meanwhile, will pay less. And your typical household served by a municipality will see its water fee rise by just $1 to $2 per year. No one user will subsidize government by paying more than its fair share; more than what it costs government to develop and enforce the new rules within the WSA.
To ensure a sustainable water source for future generations the WSA provides various new tools such as mandatory reporting, better protection for fish and aquatic environments, prioritizing conservation especially during drought and scarcity, enacting area based regulations to address local needs if required and tools that can be applied to specific areas, to respond to local pressures on water resources.
For the first time, groundwater users throughout British Columbia will be regulated. This includes industrial, agricultural and other non-domestic users who will now pay fees and rentals, require a license and have to report their water usage. They will also have the same access rights and responsibilities as individuals who obtain their water from surface sources. Household wells, however, will not be licenced or charged.
The new water rates are based on sound principles, and attempt to strike a fair balance between appropriately pricing our water resource and supporting economic development. Water is vital for life and the new Water Sustainability Act is essential in protecting our environment for future generations.