LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Leadership and enforcement by government would help demonstrate good faith. One key strategy to ensuring people know that government is serious about the water resource is to systematically check compliance and conduct enforcement on unauthorized water use,” stated Mike Wei, former Deputy Comptroller of Water Rights, when commenting on implementation challenges around groundwater licensing (September 2021)
Note to Reader:
The edition of Waterbucket eNews published on September 21, 2021 featured the groundwater licensing regulation, a foundation piece for successful implementation of BC’s Water Sustainability Act (WSA), passed in 2016. The WSA is once-in-a-generation, transformational legislation. The 6-year transition period for groundwater licensing ends on March 1, 2022. With six months to go, the dilemma is that a mere 1 in 5 small business owners and farmers who rely on groundwater have applied for a licence. This is a looming crisis with far-reaching ramifications for the BC economy.
In September 2021, the Partnership for Water Sustainability formally released its second Primer on groundwater licensing implementation. It is a compendium of very persuasive and informed opinions from people who have expert knowledge and really understand the issue.
Leadership and Enforcement Would Demonstrate Good Faith
Over the past several years, Mike Wei has been tireless in his efforts to draw attention to a crisis in the making. A former Deputy Comptroller of Water Rights, now retired from government, he has first-hand knowledge about the pervasive lack of awareness about the groundwater licensing issue throughout the BC Interior, Vancouver Island and the Fraser Valley.
“Leadership and enforcement by government would help demonstrate good faith. One key strategy to ensuring people know that government is serious about the water resource is to systematically check compliance and conduct enforcement on unauthorized water uses,” stated Mike Wei, former Deputy Comptroller of Water Rights, BC Ministry of Environment.
“It is clear to me that this is much bigger than sending out students or contractors, for example, to talk to farmers and small business owners throughout the Province.”
“The groundwater licensing issue requires someone with profile, such as a Minister or an MLA, to reach out to local community leaders and talk to them about how to engage their communities about the benefits of compliance versus consequences of not applying. Just posting an information bulletin on a government website will not achieve this.”
“It is surprising how many small businesses in rural BC, such as roadside restaurants, motels and gas stations, use groundwater. Many are operated by families. These are typically small business operations and owners who are not familiar with all the various government requirements. Many are unaware, and even surprised, to hear of the requirement for groundwater licensing; it’s just not on their radar.”
To Learn More:
Download a copy of Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Groundwater Users Put on Notice. Posted to the waterbucket.ca website in July 2021, this second of two Primers 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 first primer was released in April 2021. The 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.