DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Groundwater Users Put on Notice,” released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in July 2021


True Risks of Not Applying for a Groundwater Licence

“Groundwater licensing is the biggest endeavour the Province of BC has taken on in its water management history. There are an estimated 20,000 historical groundwater wells supplying farms, businesses, industries, utilities, and institutions across the province,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director,  Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

“Yet, after 5-plus years, a mere 1 in 5 have applied for a water licence. March 1, 2022 is the looming deadline to apply. Now it is a crisis in the making. What will it take to motivate the other 4 in 5 to apply in their own self-interest?”

“The Partnership for Water Sustainability has released the second in a set of Primers that has a focus on groundwater licensing implementation. The first primer was released in April 2021. This second Primer builds on the first. It is not a technical report. It is a compendium of very persuasive and informed opinions from people who have expert knowledge and really understand the issue. The Primer provides context and perspective on the value of a water right and why it is worth the time and effort by farmers and small businesses to APPLY RIGHT NOW for a water licence.”

“The Primer elaborates on an ongoing failure to communicate effectively about what is missing in government messaging. The Primer suggests potential game-changing solutions to create a desired ‘tidal wave of groundwater licence applications’ between today and March 1, 2022. Because people learn through stories and anecdotes, the Primer storyline is built around quotable quotes from these knowledgeable professionals to tell the ‘story behind the story’.”

Potential Game-Changing Solutions

“Dealing with 16,000 non-compliant historical water users after March 1, 2022 would be overwhelming for government. The Province desperately needs a two-prong strategy to motivate historical non-domestic groundwater users to apply: communication and enforcement,” stated Mike Wei, former Deputy Comptroller of Water Rights, Ministry of Environment.

“If government would follow through with compliance checking for ‘new’ unauthorized water uses, it would certainly send a message and a wake-up call to ALL water users – especially if accompanied by a concerted education and communication effort. What would the succinct message be? It would be that government intends to systematically check compliance, now and beyond March 1, 2022,” suggested Ted van der Gulik, formerly with the Ministry of Agriculture and now President of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC.

“In addition to government’s two-pronged responsibility for better communication and enforcement, there is a third responsibility that all citizens can take on. We all need to recognize the importance of water as a shared resource and communicate to business operators and elected officials that groundwater licensing is fundamental to water management in BC and illegal water use is unacceptable,” added Donna Forsyth, retired civil servant. She led the team that developed the new water law under the Water Sustainability Act.

“Only the Premier has the authority and accountability to direct adequate resources and attention to motivate historical groundwater users to apply before it is too late and to ensure there are equitable groundwater supplies for the future,” concluded Kim Stephens.

To Learn More:

Download a copy of Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Groundwater Users Put on Notice.