GROUNDWATER LICENSING IN BRITISH COLUMBIA IS A CRISIS IN THE MAKING: “Groundwater users could lose rights next year. Unlicensed water could be reallocated to new users” – headline and tag-line in Country Life magazine (November 2021)

Note to Reader:

British Columbia’s groundwater licensing regulation is a foundation piece for successful implementation of the 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 four months to go, the dilemma is that a small minority of farmers and small business owners who rely on groundwater have applied for a licence. This is a looming crisis with far-reaching ramifications for the BC economy. 

The November 2021 issue of Country Life magazine included a public service announcement by the Partnership for Water Sustainability alongside an article on groundwater licensing by Peter Mitham, Associate Editor.

Groundwater users could lose rights next year

“This summer’s dry weather resulted in a record number of restrictions on water use across southern BC, underscoring just how tapped out some basins are,” wrote Peter Mitham in his opening sentence.

“With the province standing firm on a deadline of March 1, 2022 for existing nondomestic well owners to license their wells, a renewed push is taking place to make sure those wells are licensed. If they don’t, users in watersheds such as Bessette Creek in the North Okanagan, could find themselves out of luck.”

“During the recent provincial budget consultation, Ted van der Gulik (President of the Partnership for Water Sustainability) urged government to allocate an extra $30 million per year for water management.”

To Learn More:

To read the complete article by Country Life Magazine’s Peter Mitham, download a PDF copy of Groundwater users could lose rights next year.

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 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.”


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