SMARTER WATER LAWS: A commentary on Living Water Smart by Linda Nowlan (June 2008)

cover-Smarter water laws - by linda nowlan - june 2008

Smarter Water Laws – A Commentary by Linda Nowlan

BACKGROUND: Living Water Smart – BC’s Water Plan was released on June 3, 2008 by Environment Minister Barry Penner. In the introduction to her commentary on the need for smarter water laws, Linda Nowlan observes that:

  • This long awaited Plan is the latest stage in a history of efforts to reform BC‟s water laws over the past 15 years. This comment from the UBC Program on Water Governance is an initial reaction to the Plan, and points out crucial issues that deserve more in-depth exploration through a thorough public consultation.

Linda nowlan - ubcThe first 40 pages of the 95 page booklet distributed at the press conference at Musqueam Creek are a series of photos illustrating water’s importance in the lives of British Columbians,” explains Linda Nowlan.

“The rest of the booklet outlines 45 Actions divided into three categories: Doing Business Differently, Preparing Communities for Change, and Choosing to be Water Smart,” continues Linda Nowlan.

“A list of Recent Achievements is also appended to each category of Water Action. The Actions are presented in summary form, and contain few details on substance, implementation, or public process,” adds Linda Nowlan.

Backdrop for Living Water Smart

According to Linda Nowlan, the last significant attempt at provincial water law reform occurred in 1993 when the British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks issued “Stewardship of the water of British Columbia: a review of British Columbia’s water management policy and legislation: a vision for new water management policy and legislation”, a series of ten detailed discussion papers.

“Though short on glossy photos, this set of policy papers examined critical issues in detail, explained the different options to address the problems, and sought public input on the policy proposals put forward by the government,” states Linda Nowlan.

She then explains that for various reasons the comprehensive rewrite of the law did not proceed as contemplated, and changes to various BC water laws have occurred in more of a piecemeal fashion since 1993:

  • the 1997 Fish Protection Act included a number of provisions for water. Including a system to designate sensitive streams;
  • a policy document titled the Water Conservation Strategy was issued in 1998, focused on education about low flow plumbing fixtures and use of drought tolerant plants in landscapes;
  • in 1999 the province announced the Fresh Water Strategy for British Columbia to “consolidate provincial initiatives into one cohesive strategy”,
  • the Drinking Water Protection Act was developed following a report from the government appointed BC Drinking Water Protection Advisory Committee and came into force in May 2003,
  • Phase 1 of the Groundwater Protection Regulation, (two additional Phases are planned) was passed in 2004,developed with the assistance of the Groundwater Advisory Board,
  • the BC Drought Strategy, which included the guide “Dealing With Drought: A Handbook for Water Suppliers in British Columbia” was released in 2004, and
  • the BC Water Act was amended in 2004 and established new powers to create water management plans under Part 4 of the Act.

“All these changes are the backdrop for the new Plan,” concludes Linda Nowlan. “Other provinces across Canada have issued new strategies and amended their water laws in recent years: Quebec’s Water Policy was issued in 2002, Alberta’s “Water for Life” Strategy was issued in 2004, and Ontario has a new suite of laws which includes the Clean Water Act, 2007.”

Link to Commentary

To download a copy of the commentary, click on Smarter Water Laws – the Key to Living Water Smart – BC’s New Water Plan.