Moving Towards Water Sustainability in BC
Water Act Modernization
Over the past two and a half years, the provincial government has been in open dialogue with the public as the Province navigates the reform of British Columbia’s century-old Water Act.
Involvement of the POLIS Water Team
The POLIS Water Team has been active throughout the Water Act Modernization (WAM) process, providing research and feedback to the Ministry of Environment at every stage. This has included:
detailed applied water governance research;
the appointment of team leader and POLIS Co-Director, Oliver M. Brandes, to the Ministry’s Water Act Modernization Technical Advisory Committee;
ongoing engagement with staff, key groups, and sectors across British Columbia; and,
most recently, two detailed submissions in response to government proposals.
The December 2010 release of the Ministry’s Policy Proposal on British Columbia’s New Water Sustainability Act offers insight into the direction Government is considering.
Assessment of Proposed Water Sustainability Act
In the most recent POLIS WAM submission, the Water Team commends the Living Water Smart Team on progress in a number of areas:
- groundwater regulation and licensing;
- attention to environmental flows;
- use of economic instruments and “beneficial use” provisions to achieve efficiency gains;
- monitoring and reporting requirements; and
- the development of new tools and processes such as “provincial water objectives” and “area based decision-making.”
The submission also emphasizes four key aspects that require more attention and additional development if the goal of a modern Water Sustainability Act is to be achieved.
- The priority of environmental flows over other non-essential human uses, and the need for clear binding and legally enforceable rules, as opposed to guidelines.
- An allocation system that embeds the public trust to build resilience and avoid conflict.
- Commitment to shared watershed governance to ensure those who are affected have a say in relevant decisions. Support for co-governance and substantive local participation on key water (and other resource) decisions must be enabled.
- Accountability and oversight to provide British Columbians with transparency and confidence that what is promised will be done.
“To further build capacity and engagement around the topic of water governance reform, the POLIS WSP team hosted a new, five-part webinar series from September 2010 to February 2011, Creating a Blue Dialogue: Canadian Water Governance into the 21st Century. The series helped promote and facilitate dialogue around the ongoing WAM process, specifically around the concept of the Public Trust Doctrine and the topic of environmental flows,” reports Oliver Brandes.
Posted March 2011