extensions of the timelines for groundwater users-Freshwater Alliance
My name is Danielle Paydli and I am the new BC Organizer with the Canadian Freshwater Alliance. I am thrilled to be part of this great cross-Canada team of water activists and as equally thrilled to be able to lead and support the work of the OWBC group. I know there are amazing initiatives happening in all corners of this province and I look forward to speaking with you in person, via Skype or on the phone over the next month in order to gain a deeper understanding of your organization, your priorities and the people who make it all happen!
In the meantime, something has come across my desk that I would like to share with you:
As you may be aware, on February 19th, the BC government announced its decision to extend the timelines for groundwater users to apply for their license to March 2022. This means that the estimated 20,000 existing non-domestic users of groundwater will have an additional 3 years to obtain their license for use and establish limits to their water extraction.
Groundwater licensing is key to sound management of our valuable freshwater resources. It allows us to know exactly who is accessing groundwater, how much their are accessing and where they are accessing it. It allows us to assess where groundwater use may be threatened. Essentially, it allows us to take the blindfold off on how we manage groundwater sources.
Therefore, the Canadian Freshwater Alliance is reaching out to encourage all who care about the protection of freshwater in our communities to respond to government on this delay. Though we agree it is important to get the system right and to not burden small sustenance users (domestic water users are not required to apply for a license though are encouraged to register their wells), the long term management of our water resources is of utmost importance, and we can not continue to blindly manage our underground water reserves.
In receiving multiple submissions on this delay, the province will see the impact this decision has and understand the depth, breadth and commitment that communities across the province have to BCs freshwater health.
We have a number of key concerns with this delay in groundwater licensing, including:
The Province makes no indication that March 1st, 2022 is a firm deadline for existing users to obtain licences.
Until groundwater users are integrated into the system, decision-makers cannot properly assess the effects of new surface and groundwater applications on the flows of our rivers and streams.
Determining surface and groundwater interactions, especially in water-stressed watersheds, will be significantly impacted by the three-year extension.
There is no mention of whether there will be adequate funding and resources to effectively implement this element of the WSA and achieve success over the next three year period.
The consultation approach to-date with First Nations—based on referrals for individual licences as opposed to taking a regional “batched” approach—makes it near impossible for Nations to comment on cumulative impacts on rights and title.
These concerns can easily be alleviated by calling on the province to:
Commit the necessary resources to this task to ensure completion by a firm deadline of 2022.
Focus efforts on water-stressed regions giving these priority zones an accelerated deadline of 2020 to allow for better water management, particularly during times of drought.
Ensure proper consultation and communication with key partners, including water stewards.
Continue the work of defining a First Nations WSA Engagement Framework.
There’s a growing concern in BC that the government is not hearing about the importance of solving these freshwater challenges in the province. This is our opportunity to make sure they know we are following their moves, that we support robust and timely implementation of the WSA, and that we expect adequate financing to get the job done.
The Polis Water Project has made its submission and we would like to ask that you join with us in making ours — borrow from these points above, propose additional concerns and/or solutions — but most importantly make sure those in Victoria hear from communities across the province on how these decisions impact them. You can find your MLA contact information here. https://www.leg.bc.ca/content-committees/Pages/MLA-Contact-Information.aspx
Please do share your submission with us (infofreshwateralliance.ca) or if you’d like to sign-on to a joint submission, please let me know (Daniellefreshwateralliance.ca).
daniellefreshwateralliance.ca / Website: www.freshwateralliance.ca
Gratefully acknowledging that I live, work and write in the unceded Coast Salish Territories.
Canadian Freshwater Alliance, a project on the Tides Canada shared platform · 163 Hastings St W, 400, Vancouver, BC V6B 1H5, Canada