A WATERSHED SECURITY FUND FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA: Position Paper on Building Resilience and Advancing Reconciliation (released November 2019)
Note to Reader:
The Watershed Security Fund Position Paper describes a genuine opportunity for the provincial government to create an enduring legacy for freshwater in B.C. The Paper was produced through collaboration between the POLIS Water Sustainability Project, First Nations Fisheries Council, BC Wildlife Federation, and BC Freshwater Legacy Initiative.
To Advance Water Sustainability in British Columbia
A collaborative effort on the part of four entities, the Position Paper responds to a direct recommendation in the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services’ Budget 2020 Consultation Report (August 2019), which recommends that the Province:
“Advance water sustainability in British Columbia by providing a dedicated, sustainable, annual funding source for First Nations, local government, local watershed protections agencies and community partnerships.”
Building on this recommendation, the Position Paper was developed to support policy makers and advance the public dialogue on this important opportunity. The paper outlines the urgent need for a dedicated Watershed Security Fund for British Columbia.
It describes the rationale for such a fund, provides an overview of benefits and examples of the activities it would support, and outlines technical details on options for Fund structure, funding mechanisms, and governance.
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A Watershed Security Fund would:
- Provide sustainable funding to equip communities to build resilience in the face of growing watershed threats, such as more extreme floods, droughts, and forest fires, and implications for clean drinking water, Indigenous rights, and wild salmon habitat.
- Support reconciliation with First Nations.
- Invest in partnerships with local governments, farmers, businesses, and community groups.
- Invest in smart planning and community capacity, reducing costs and creating jobs.
- Fulfill government’s commitments to climate adaptation, reconciliation, and rural economies.
- Create a powerful legacy for B.C. through a provincial endowment supplemented by other sustainable funding sources, such as a surcharge on water rental fees
“First Nations communities often lack the necessary financial resources to meet the demands placed upon them from Crown governments and industry, and to proactively develop and implement their own water protection plans, policies, and laws. A Watershed Security Fund would provide lasting financial support to First Nations and community partners to build and strengthen their capacity to undertake watershed stewardship, planning and governance activities for the benefit of all British Columbians,” stated Susi Porter-Bopp, First Nations Fisheries Council.
“Healthy forests and wetland systems provide a host of watershed services, including water purification, ground water and surface flow regulation, erosion control, and streambank stabilization, to the benefit of fish and wildlife, as well as to the benefit of local communities. A Watershed Security Fund will invest in partnerships and planning that safeguard these important watershed services in the face of climate change and cumulative impacts,” added Neil Fletcher, BC Wildlife Federation Wetlands Program Manager.
“First Nations, local governments, and community organizations are leading major freshwater initiatives in this province, but are stymied by a lack of resources and funding. By creating a Watershed Security Fund, the provincial government has a critical opportunity to support watershed partnerships and initiatives that build watershed resilience and make reconciliation commitments real,” continued Rosie Simms, POLIS Water Sustainability Project.
At a time of unprecedented climatic and economic disruptions, the Province has a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate global leadership. Through a Watershed Security Fund, the provincial government can make a legacy investment in British Columbian communities that will resonate for generations. A Watershed Security Fund would meaningfully advance reconciliation with First Nations and enable innovative partnerships with towns, farmers, businesses and local groups. It would provide a major boost to the health and resilience of communities throughout the province,” concluded Tim Morris, BC Freshwater Legacy Initiative.