BC’s Water Act Modernization Process: Watershed Watch article titled ‘Ecosystem versus Economics’ draws attention to unanswered questions
Note to Reader:
In 2008, the BC Government announced Living Water Smart and the Water Act Modernization process. Living Water Smart promised long-needed changes to the Province’s rules for allocating water.
The Province is now in the midst of Phase 3. The Ministry of Environment reviewed and analysed public input and, in December 2010, the Policy Proposal on British Columbia’s new Water Sustainability Act was released. The policy proposal summarizes the key policies being contemplated for the proposed new Water Sustainability Act.
The Water Sustainability Act for BC is expected to be introduced into legislature in 2012.
Ecosystem versus Economics
“The BC provincial government has positively responded to public concerns by initiating the process of modernizing the antiquated Water Act. While the WAM process has remained positively transparent to the public, a number of questions remain unanswered with regards to instream and groundwater protection,” concludes the Watershed Watch Salmon Society in an article titled Ecosystem versus Economics. In the article, Watershed Watch raises these questions:
- How will the new Act work to improve conditions in those parts of the province where over-allocation has threatened flows?
- What procedures will be used to amend existing licences in these heavily used watersheds?
- How much can the natural flow regime be altered while still ensuring population persistence in aquatic and riparian communities?
- Has the province considered a minimum flow standard to apply to all rivers to save the time and money associated with intensive water use planning processes?
- Are there any plans to phase in over time monitoring and reporting of extraction for all licenses, including licenses held by IPP’s?
- Given the importance of groundwater, have the MOE considered groundwater licensing in all areas of the province?
“Adequate protection, in the form of the Water Sustainability Act, for instream flow and groundwater, will undoubtedly use a considerable amount of BC’s resources. This cost could be argued as unrealistic and non-feasible. While it is essential to seek an alternative and lower cost means of protection, the level of protection should not be lowered,” argues Watershed Watch in the article.
“If our concerns become a reality, which is highly likely, the cost to conserve and protect our ecosystem will be even greater. Not just economically but ethically. Many species such as the Pacific salmon and the grizzly bear that are infamous to beautiful British Columbia face a very real threat if we do not properly protect our water and our ecosystem. It is imperative the provincial government realizes and understands the implications the Water Act Modernization will have if it fails to adequately protect our environment,” concludes Watershed Watch.
To Learn More:
To read the complete article prepared by the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, click on Ecosystem versus Economics to download a PDF document. More information on instream flow, groundwater protection, and current practices is available in the following reports released by the society:
- Groundwater and Healthy Streams: it’s all connected;
- Fish Out of Water: Tools to Protect British Columbia’s Groundwater and Wild Salmon;
- Groundwater and Salmon: Proceedings of the Speaking for the Salmon Panel;
- Review of British Columbia’s Groundwater Regulatory Regime: Current Practices and Options
To read an earlier Watershed Watch story posted on Water Bucket in February 2011, click on Watershed Watch Salmon Society comments on BC’s Water Sustainability Act.
“The inclusion of ‘sustainability’ in the title of the proposed new Act reveals a welcome change in the way water could be viewed,” writes Linda Nowlan, author of the society’s brief. “However, the Proposal is relatively short, and while it offers some insight into how a new Act will work, it remains unacceptably vague on some key issues, such as water governance.”
About the Water Act Modernization Process
There are four key phases of the Water Act Modernization (WAM) process. Engagement on Water Act Modernization began with the launch of the Living Water Smart Blog in December 2009. The Ministry of Environment spent much of 2010 engaging with stakeholders, First Nations and the public on Water Act Modernization.
The Ministry released a Discussion Paper in February 2010 which outlined opportunities for using, sustaining and managing water resources in a changing environment, and delivered 12 regional workshops during March and April 2010. About 900 submissions were received from a broad range of interests and citizens. These submissions are summarized in the Water Act Modernization Report on Engagement, which was released in September 2010.
Posted April 2011