CHALLENGES & GAPS IN THE WSA: “What might a Water Sustainability Act 2.0 look like?” – a joint submission by Donna Forsyth and Mike Wei to the government of British Columbia lays out five issues of concern (March 2022)

Note to Reader:

When the Water Sustainability Act (WSA) came into force in 2016, “certain things were left behind”. Released in January 2022, the Government of British Columbia’s Discussion Paper on Watershed Security Strategy represents a once per decade window of opportunity to revisit assumptions and decisions that defined the WSA scope, reflect on the context for those assumptions and decisions, and determine what action should be taken in light of new understanding.

Retired senior civil servants Donna Forsyth and Mike Wei bring an informed perspective to their quest to strengthen the foundation for BC water law. They draw on decades of experience to pull threads of understanding from the past through to the present. They are keen to share their insights with an audience that cares about water. In their submission to government on March 18th 2022, Donna Forsyth and Mike Wei identified five issues of concern.

Why do Donna Forsyth and Mike Wei care so much about the Water Sustainability Act and strengthening water law?

“We are dedicated, now retired, public servants. We were part of the team that drafted the Water Sustainability Act (WSA) and regulations – we were ‘in the room’ when the WSA was drafted,” wrote Donna Forsyth and Mike Wei.

“We have intimate knowledge of the WSA and understood that the current WSA represents the first, highest initial priorities written into law and was only the first step in modernising BC’s water legislation.”

“We are therefore very aware that ‘certain things were left behind’ in the first round and still need to be addressed. For example, under section 5 WSA the provincial jurisdiction over water is limited. There is no jurisdiction for any of the rules under the WSA for water that remains unvested.

“So far, the current engagement for the Watershed Security Strategy has prioritised the questions that relate to: “what can First Nations and local organisations do to help with the management of BC’s water”.”

“Our submission focused on government’s actions that we believe need to be discussed and addressed in conjunction with the Watershed Security Strategy in order to unlock the full potential for sustainable water management in BC. Since climate change is all about water – too much or too little – these changes should fit into climate related initiatives as well.”

What is the concern about what happened after the Water Sustainability Act came into force in 2016?

“Passed by the British Columbia Legislature in 2014, the Water Sustainability Act (WSA) came into force on February 29, 2016. It addressed the three highest priorities at the time.”

“Before retiring, we observed with concern how, once the WSA was brought into force and the fanfare subsided, the provincial government stopped prioritising the implementation of even the most fundamental piece of this new law which was groundwater licensing.”

“Accordingly, our submission for the Discussion Paper engagement process focused on the key insights and background knowledge we gained from being involved with round one of the WSA. We also wanted to provide insight into the follow-up work that we believe will be needed to ensure the success of the Watershed Security Strategy.”

To Learn More:

Download a copy of  “What might a Water Sustainability Act 2.0 look like?” – a joint submission by Donna Forsyth and Mike Wei to the government of British Columbia lays out issues of concern.