British Columbia’s Water Licensing Calculator: Managing water as one resource

Note to Reader:

Sitelines-Magazine_June2016_op-edSitelines magazine is a publication of the British Columbia Society of Landscape Architects (BCSLA). Published bi-monthly, BCSLA has a longstanding practice of inviting partner organizations to take on a co-editor role and provide the content for an issue featuring the partner.

The June 2016 issue featured the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC. This allowed the Partnership to showcase initiatives and tools. Reproduced below is one of two articles written by Ted van der Gulik, Partnership President. 

TEST DRIVE IT! The Water Licensing Calculator is available at

TEST DRIVE IT! The Water Licensing Calculator is available at

Water Balance Pathway to a
Water-Resilient Future

“The Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC is assisting the Province with implementation of the new Water Sustainability Act (WSA), passed in April 2014 and effective as of 2015,” wrote Ted van der Gulik. “WSA is the signature piece in a Sitelines-Magazine_June2016_coverpolicy, program and regulatory framework that establishes expectations for adapting to a changing climate. To enable groundwater regulation, the Ministry of Environment turned to the Partnership to develop the online Water Licensing Calculator.”

“Unveiled publicly for the first time at the annual conference of the BC Society of Landscape Architects, this tool went live on February 29, 2016. It builds on the Agricultural Water Demand Model (AWDM) which the Partnership manages on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture.”

To Learn More:

Download In this issue, the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC presents WATER BALANCE PATHWAY TO A WATER-RESILIENT FUTURE, June 2016, to read the complete set of 9 articles published in Sitelines Magazine.

Groundwater Regulation

“Under WSA, surface and groundwater are managed under the same regulatory regime. All non-domestic users of groundwater must now obtain a licence to extract and use water from wells.  This requirement applies to wells constructed both before and after the WSA came into effect.  This means that 20,000 existing non-domestic wells must now apply for a licence.  While the new legislation affects everyone, most of the 20,000 wells are in the agriculture sector.”

“Groundwater has been used for agricultural irrigation for decades. The old Water Act did not require licensing of groundwater use. Hence, agricultural operations had no compelling reason to accurately quantify the total groundwater volumes they used.  Furthermore, traditional computation methods for estimating irrigation water demand are either complex or overly-simplified.  Given this context, there was a concern that agricultural operations would tend to over-estimate water need when applying for water licences.”

Centre Pivot System

Use of Agricultural Water Demand Model

“This concern became the driver for development of a reliable tool for calculating water volumes for water licensing purposes.  The innovation by the Partnership was in connecting the dots to the AWDM.  Development of this tool had previously established a 500-metre climate grid over the entire province and this generates daily evapotranspiration data.  Output from the AWDM is input to the Water Licensing Calculator.”

“The calculator works for any and all properties in the province and can be used for both landscape and agricultural purposes.  The tool allows a user to zoom in on a specific property.  It then generates the annual water demand and the peak spray emitter system on grapesirrigation flow rate for the property.  The output is based on a forage crop with a sprinkler system.  If the soil texture is known, then that information will also be taken into account.  If not, then a default of sandy loam is provided.  The user has the ability to change the crop, irrigation system type and soil type to generate a new number.”

A Look Ahead

“The calculator will be used by licensees and water managers.  It will allow managers to improve the accuracy of licensing, thereby enhancing the management of BC’s water resources.”