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State of Water in BC

THE ERA OF WEATHER EXTREMES IS UPON US: “The B.C. government was clearly warned over a decade ago that staffing levels at its River Forecast Centre were far below those at similar operations in Oregon and Alberta and that more than a doubling of employees was needed to provide effective flood-risk assessment and early notice to communities in harm’s way,” says researcher Ben Parfitt in a new report released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (December 2021)


Ben Parfitt claims the under-resourced River Forecast Centre (RFC) was not timely in its warnings to British Columbians. “The late issuance of warnings by the RFC in the days and hours leading up to the horrendous flooding that has devastated Abbotsford, Merritt, Princeton and First Nations communities in recent weeks is coming under increasing scrutiny,” he says. Compounding problems, in Parfitt’s view, is poor communication from the government. Parfitt concludes, “In the face of silence, the flood of questions is certain to grow.”

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THE ERA OF WEATHER EXTREMES IS UPON US: “It’s less usual to see an atmospheric river penetrate right past the southern tip of Vancouver Island … and then into the Fraser Valley, going as deep in as in the Fraser Valley, and we saw this one,” stated Charles Curry, Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium after British Columbia was battered by a record-breaking rainstorm (November 2021)


“Our work is the first to directly investigate the impact of these ‘rivers in the sky’ on ‘rivers on the land’ using climate model projections. Focusing on the Fraser River Basin, Canada’s largest Pacific watershed, and using a business-as-usual industrial emissions scenario, we show that the basin transitions from one where peak flow results from spring snowmelt to one where peak flow is often caused by extreme rainfall,” stated Charles Curry. “What the models tell us is sort of an overview or a kind of a probability of these events getting more frequent in the future. But we just can’t say so much about the exact timing of when they’re going to occur.”

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THE ERA OF WEATHER EXTREMES IS UPON US: In a matter of days, extreme rain swamped rivers and farmland across southern B.C. and triggered mudslides that blocked every major highway connecting the Lower Mainland to the rest of the country (November 2021)


“It has been one of the most severe natural disasters to strike British Columbia in a generation, even after a year that has brought crisis after crisis. The sheer scope of the damage has been difficult to comprehend. This is a timeline of the first week, from storm touchdown to early clean-up, of a disaster which has effects that will reverberate across the province for months to come,” wrote Rhianna Schmunk. “The storm broke dozens of all-time rainfall records, dumping nearly a month’s worth of rain on some communities over 48 hours.”

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THE ERA OF WEATHER EXTREMES IS UPON US: “The issues related to emergency management and climate action cannot be downplayed or ignored,” said UBCM president Laurey-Anne Roodenburg, when commenting on the pattern of sudden, extreme weather events that is testing the resiliency of B.C.’s communities (November 17, 2021)


“While investing in emergency preparedness along with climate action, mitigation and adaptation will be costly, doing so will be much more cost effective than having critical infrastructure systems fail as a result of extreme weather events. We welcome the commitment made by the province to work with UBCM to consider the recommendations identified in the Ensuring Local Government Financial Resiliency report, and are ready to get to work on steps necessary in order to ensure B.C. communities have the resources necessary for our changing climate,” stated Laurey-Anne Roodenburg.

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WATER ALLOCATION, IRRIGATION AND FOOD SECURITY IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “There are three key messages. First, put the science in water licensing. Secondly, it is all about food security. And thirdly, give people only what water they need today,” stated Ted van der Gulik, former Senior Engineer in the Ministry of Agriculture (November 2021)


“Irrigation for agriculture is a dominant use of water in British Columbia, the need is seasonal, and use peaks when water supply is at its lowest. With longer and drier summers being the new reality for water management, the Agriculture Water Demand Model is a game-changer for achieving food security in British Columbia. We have downscaled climate data to a 500-metre grid across the province. This means we can reliably estimate the total water need for agricultural irrigation. This further means that the Province can align water allocation and water use. This is a powerful outcome,” stated Ted van der Gulik.

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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)


“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, Associate Editor, in the November 2021 issue of Country Life magazine. “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.”

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PARTNERSHIP FOR WATER SUSTAINABILITY ISSUES ‘CALL FOR ACTION’ DURING BUDGET 2022 CONSULTATION: “BC’s groundwater licensing system is still in crisis. Experts warn of chaos and economic disruption, but say it is not too late to save the needed initiative,” wrote Andrew MacLeod in his article published by The Tyee (October 2021)


“There’s still time for the British Columbia government to save its troubled groundwater licensing system, observers and experts say, but it will require stronger commitment and action than the province has shown so far. The consequences of a failed groundwater transition — political, economic, ecological — cannot be overstated and are extremely difficult to reverse, they add. Failure would erode the public trust in the government’s ability to manage water resources and undermine the Water Sustainability Act, they also say,” wrote Andrew MacLeod.

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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)


“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,” stated Kim Stephens.

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GROUNDWATER LICENSING IN BRITISH COLUMBIA IS A CRISIS IN THE MAKING: “People have been issuing warnings about this for several years, but a legislature committee heard first-hand last week about how bad it could get,” wrote columnist Les Leyne in his article published by the Victoria Times Colonist (October 2021)


“There was a pivotal moment in B.C.’s resource management history about five years ago when the Water Sustainability Act was passed. The only problem was that scarcely anyone paid any attention to it. Particularly the thousands of farmers, businesses and entities in rural B.C. who use well water and have been doing so for years. That collective indifference and the government’s slow acknowledgment of it is about to hit a lot harder than the new law ever did,” stated Les Leyne.

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BUDGET CONSULTATION 2022: Partnership for Water Sustainability issues a “Call for Action” by the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services to rectify a chaotic situation, provide a dedicated budget, and get groundwater licensing implementation back on track in British Columbia (October 2021)


“With this year’s economic losses and social trauma of raging forest fires throughout the province, climate change has certainly become a top-of-mind issue for many British Columbians. The Partnership believes that $30 million for each of the next 10 years dedicated to achieving the objectives of the Water Sustainability Act is key to building provincial resilience in the face of climate change impacts already upon us and – with certainty – to increase in the future,” stated Ted van der Gulik in laying out a How-to-Framework for action,

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