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Groundwater Use: What You Need to Know About British Columbia’s Water Sustainability Act

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The Water Sustainability Act (WSA) was implemented in 2016 to provide updates to water regulations, with a focus on ensuring sustainable access to clean water for current and future generations. Among the modifications to water policy and regulation found in the WSA are those involving procedural requirements for non-domestic groundwater use. Important changes were made to licensing requirements, groundwater protection regulations, and fee requirements.

Licensing Requirements

Under the law, all groundwater use that is not for household purposes requires a permit. The permitting system allows for water allocation monitoring for groundwater, as has already existed for surface water use. Securing the services of an environmental lawyer Vancouver BC can help you facilitate and navigate the licensing procedures.

Groundwater Protection Regulations

The Groundwater Protection Regulation (GWPR) provides for environmental and resource protection in well construction and maintenance in addition to groundwater use. GWPR is the statutory structure for all wells, both household and non-domestic. Guidelines are set for siting, construction, maintenance and decommission. In addition, the regulation sets requirements for qualified workers on well projects.

Fee Requirements

All water in BC falls under the jurisdiction of the Crown. The WSA now requires that anyone who either diverts or withdraws groundwater pay application and rental fees. Application fees are required any time permission is sought for groundwater use, well drilling, plan changes and permits on Crown land. Rental fees are required and based on both the intended purpose for use and the amount withdrawn or diverted.

Increasing demands for water puts a strain on water supply and can stress ecological systems. In order to balance access with environmental health, British Columbia adopted new measures to protect this valuable resource for generations to come. Understanding the new groundwater licensing, regulatory, and fee procedures will help to ensure your access to groundwater while remaining in compliance with the law.