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State of Water in BC

FLASHBACK TO 2015: The Water Sustainability Act allows for the development of Water Sustainability Plans to integrate water and land use planning to address the potential impacts of land use decisions and actions on water


“The scale and scope of each Water Sustainability Plan – and the process used to develop it – would be unique, and would reflect the needs and interests of the watersheds affected. Planning will be an effective tool where the need is great, and where other area-based management tools are not able to address the links between land use and watershed impacts,” explained the Ministry of Environment’s Jennifer Vigano. Water Sustainability Plans can be combined with other local, regional or provincial planning processes.

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NEW REPORT > ‘Tapped Out’ Sounds Alarm about British Columbia’s Looming Water Crisis


“Many people believe that B.C. has limitless water supplies. Unfortunately, this is simply not true. All over the province, communities are already experiencing water shortages, and low water levels in many rivers threaten the survival of salmon. I began this project about a year ago, and my mission was to find a way to demonstrate how B.C. does not have the abundant water that many people think it does. Unfortunately, BC has very poor information about how much water we have and how much we use,” stated Tanis Gower.

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ADDRESSING WATER CHALLENGES IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Water Sustainability Plans are a powerful new legal tool with a lot of potential and flexibility to address local needs and priorities across the province,” says Deborah Curran, Executive Director of the Environmental Law Centre, University of Victoria


Understanding how Water Sustainability Plans can begin meeting the needs of communities and healthy functioning watersheds will be critical to building necessary watershed resilience and ensuring B.C.’s freshwater future, says Deborah Curran. “They haven’t yet been implemented anywhere in British Columbia, which creates an opportunity for us to really explore how they could be used to their fullest extent.” Effective and sustainable freshwater management is an urgent priority for communities if they are to achieve multiple desired outcomes.

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2019 REPORT ON PROTECTION OF DRINKING WATER: “We undertook this audit because of the considerable importance of safe drinking water and because the risks to drinking water are increasing,” stated Carol Bellringer, B.C.’s auditor general


In July 2019, Auditor General Carol Bellringer released a report entitled “The Protection of Drinking Water: An Independent Audit”. It found along with not notifying the public of potential risks, the Ministry of Health and the provincial health officer (PHO) are not sufficiently protecting drinking water for all British Columbians. The Auditor General’s report tells a classic story of how a government initiative, launched with the best of intentions, lost momentum over the years as the sense of urgency faded and other priorities took over.

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“The Fraser River would be able to supply much of the water required for food security in British Columbia,” wrote Ted van der Gulik in a co-authored opinion piece published by the Vancouver Sun (November 2017)


“The lower Fraser Valley, one of the most productive agricultural regions in Canada, is vital to B.C.’s long-term food security,” wrote Ted van der Gulik. “At the mouth of the Fraser, the consequences of summer droughts and rising sea levels combine to impact river water quality while at the same time increasing the need for irrigation water. Delivering the water (from the Fraser River) would require a huge investment in infrastructure.”

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NEW POLIS REPORT: Reconciliation, Water and Watershed Sustainability through Collaborative Consent


“Collaborative consent is about a different way of being together and building a future for Canada in which Indigenous nations assume their rightful governance role as founding nations in this country,” says co-author Merrell-Ann Phare. “There are no barriers standing in the way of BC moving in this direction. Territorial and Indigenous governments in the Northwest Territories have been leaders in a collaborative consent approach for years.”

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OP-ED ARTICLE: The Moment of Truth for a Changing Climate (published in the Vancouver Sun in January 2017)


“Blue Ecology is defined as the interweaving of Western science and traditional First Nations teaching and local knowledge,” stated Kim Stephens. “This article is an early step in a process to raise awareness of Blue Ecology and inform a provincial conversation about what we can do to manage water as a whole-system. Blue Ecology aligns with the whole-system, water balance approach for restoration of watershed systems within the built environment.”

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OP-ED ARTICLE: Hope for BC’s Water – despite gloomy 2016, there is optimism for 2017, write Rosie Simms & Natasha Overduin


“From communities and local government, all the way to provincial and federal government, we must accelerate efforts to build resilience to the changing climate and increasingly unpredictable hydrological cycle,” wrote Natasha Overduin. “The new provincial Water Sustainability Act provides much-improved tools to meet today’s pressing water challenges. The legislation, however, remains only a framework of promise and potential.”

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Maude Barlow: Boiling Mad Over Canada’s Water Woes


Maude Barlow has chosen to focus on Canada’s looming water crisis in her latest book, Boiling Point. While her main focus is on national problems, there is, much that specifically concerns British Columbia. The belief that Canada has an abundance of water is dangerously misleading, she writes. “We face serious issues of water contamination … overextraction, glacial melt, and climate change.”

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Moving Towards Watershed & Water Sustainability in British Columbia: “Linking rainfall, the landscape, streamflow, groundwater and Sustainable Service Delivery has been a building blocks process,” stated Kim Stephens in his presentation to municipal engineers at the Annual APEGBC Conference (Oct 2016)


“The excellent presentation by Kim Stephens has provided me with inspiration,” commented Dr. Tom Gleeson. He teaches a course on Sustainable Water Resources for engineers at the University of Victoria. “I was really impacted by how clearly Kim has thought through organizing principles for implementing a water balance approach. I have borrowed from his slides and his thinking to develop lecture material for my course.”

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