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5th July 2015
As many of you are no doubt aware, the regulations for the new Water Sustainability Act are being developed. From our perspective, it is important that we have input into that development and that we express our concerns with the new Act. Thus, this letter went out on June 30th to the two Nanaimo local papers requesting they consider it as either a press release or an "op-ed". We are doing our best to encourage other areas on the Island to develop a letter and to send into their local papers.

Water Stewardship Groups on Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands Respond to Level 3 Drought Restrictions
June 30th, 2015

Vancouver Island Water Watch Coalition is responding to the BC government’s recent announcement of level 3 drought restrictions by calling on BC Minister of Environment Mary Polak and Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson to commit to developing strong groundwater and water flow regulations for the new Water Sustainability Act.

Last week, the BC government issued a statement urging all municipal, agricultural and industrial users on Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and Haida Gwaii to reduce water use by 20 percent or more, anticipating the possibility of “significant water supply shortages in 2015.”

Like many Islanders/citizens living in Nanaimo, we are alarmed by this winter’s historic low snowpack and current drought conditions and the ecological and economic impacts on our community. We understand the need for the province to set restrictions when water is at record-low supply, and we are doing our part to encourage local residents to continue to conserve water and abide by the restrictions.

But at the same time as drought restrictions are implemented, the BC government needs to do its part in preparing the province for future water uncertainties. The best opportunity for doing so is by making the new Water Sustainability Act as effective an act as possible.

And we want to make sure that these regulations will be strong enough to protect what 93% of BC residents consider to be our most precious resource: freshwater (Freshwater Insights Canada, 2013).

Specifically, groundwater regulations need to include monitoring requirements to ensure that new license holders stick to sustainable use levels and won’t suck our aquifers dry. Thresholds for the minimum allowable amount of water (environmental flows) need to be set in the Act’s regulations (not policy) so that all users – especially large industrial users - leave enough water in place to maintain fish and aquatic habitat. And water rates need to reflect the true cost of using this precious resource. We also believe that local watersheds must be locally governed and that this too must be covered off in the regulations. We’re calling on Ministers Polak and Thomson to publicly commit now to reviewing the very low water rates released this past February within two years.

It’s looking like it’s going to be a long, hot summer, and these restrictions are likely the first of many that we will see rolling across BC now and in the future. The extent to which we develop a strong and fully funded Water Sustainability Act will go a long way to ensuring a reliable supply of clean fresh water for British Columbians and the ecosystems that support us.
For more information contact:
June Ross
Acting Chair - Vancouver Island Water Watch Coalition