CALL FOR ACTION TO GET GROUNDWATER LICENSING BACK ON TRACK IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “This is the moment for leadership from the highest level to demonstrate that the provincial government is implementing the Water Sustainability Act in good faith. It is also a moment for ALL to embrace shared responsibility to ‘get it right’,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability (October 2021)


Leadership and commitment at the highest levels of government have been missing in action during the 6-year transition period for implementation of groundwater licensing in British Columbia. Consequently, this is a looming crisis with far-reaching ramifications for the BC economy. Thus, the edition of Waterbucket eNews published on October 5, 2021 drew attention to the presentation by Partnership President Ted van der Gulik to the Select Standing Committee on Government Finance on September 30, 2021. He laid out a How-To-Framework for a 10-year plan of action to get groundwater licensing back on track.

Partnership for Water Sustainability calls for action to rectify a chaotic situation, provide a dedicated budget, and get groundwater licensing implementation back on track

“The present chaotic situation can be turned around. But it requires commitment and a dedicated budget in place long enough to get the job done. Commitment starts at the top and requires action by the Premier. He needs to appoint a water champion,” stated Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

“To be successful, the water leader must have the authority and accountability to make water a priority and remain a priority. This individual must also be able to direct adequate resources and attention to motivate historical groundwater users to apply before it is too late.”

“The responsibility for water needs to reside in one ministry with the mandate to require other ministries to communicate, cooperate, coordinate, and collaborate. In our system of government, accountability flows through the minister.”

“For this reason, the water champion (or water leader) can only be a cabinet minister who has the authority and accountability to make water a priority; and has a mandate from the Premier to facilitate collaboration across government. And to ensure success in carrying out the WSA mission, it is essential that the minister empower and support staff.”

“At a meeting with the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services on September 30, the Partnership’s Ted van der Gulik laid out the framework for a 10-year plan comprising four ‘streams of effort’ and totaling $30 million annually.”

Submission to Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services

“For months now, the Partnership has been raising the red flag regarding the consequences of government NOT making a last ditch, all-out effort to urge historical groundwater users to apply for their licences before the deadline. If they do not do so, they will lose their historical rights and be considered illegal uses of water,” Ted van der Gulik, Partnership President said to the members of the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services on September 30, 2021.

“After almost 6 years of the licensing transition period, a mere 1 in 5 users have applied. The social, economic – and political – costs of government being forced to shut down the businesses of 16,000-plus current groundwater users in the province, most of them farmers, ranchers, and small business owners throughout rural BC, are too severe to contemplate.”

“However, regardless of how many or how few groundwater users, whether “new” or “historical”, have actually applied for their licences, by March 1st 2022 the die will be cast. Government’s headaches on this issue will be far from over on that date.”

“Without a substantial influx of funding, the situation will become even more complex – and volatile.”

To Learn More:

Download a PDF copy of Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Ramifications of Groundwater Licensing Crisis for BC Economy.