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14th April 2022
Province received 260 applications from Northeast B.C. groundwater users

By Tre Lopushinsky Apr 6, 2022 3:49 PM

B.C.’s Ministry of Forests says they received 260 groundwater applications from non-domestic users in the northeast as of the province’s March deadline.

The license requirement came into effect after the Water Sustainability Act was implemented on February 29th, 2016, to regulate groundwater use for irrigation, commercial or industrial use.

Approximately 20,000 non-domestic users throughout B.C. were given six years to transition to the new licensing framework, and as of March 1st, 2022, those without a license are legally no longer allowed to access their existing wells. Research conducted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that 16,000 users had not applied for their license as of May 2021.

The ministry was unable to provide an exact number of groundwater users in Northeast B.C. before this year’s deadline.

“Licensing groundwater helps us protect aquifers, streams and the businesses and livelihoods that depend on reliable access to water. Groundwater licensing clarifies how much water you can legally use, increases water security and establishes equity between stream water and groundwater users,” said the province’s website.

“Groundwater licensing ensures there is a fair and transparent process in place to gather information about water use. That information informs all our water management decisions, especially as demand for water increases.”

Based on comments from Energeticcity stories on the groundwater deadline over the past year, many found it to be government overreach. Yet, there seemed to be confusion between domestic and non-domestic use.

“Domestic groundwater users are deemed to have rights to the water they use for domestic purposes and are encouraged to register their well. Registering domestic wells creates a record of your water use and helps to ensure that your use is considered by the decision makers dealing with other licence applications,” said the ministry.

It seems the majority of existing users no longer needed groundwater or simply paid no mind to the government’s policy, as the ministry only received 7,711 applications at the deadline. Successful applicants will also have to pay provincial water fees and rentals moving forward.

According to the ministry, those who didn’t apply for the license by the deadline were required to stop using groundwater and lost recognition of their historical date of first use. They will also be treated as new applicants if they change their minds in the future, which comes with multiple costs.

The ministry is urging existing groundwater users to send in their applications.

“While we are not going to be unreasonable with those who are not in compliance, we are serious about the need of users getting this done.”

For those looking to apply, click here.

The BC Liberals and BC Greens called on the BC New Democratic Party to give British Columbians more time to register in December. The opposition parties also asked for a comprehensive outreach effort to ensure residents weren’t left without groundwater.

“The NDP has failed to properly reach out to those impacted by these changes ahead of the March deadline. Unless John Horgan extends the deadline and his government puts in the hard work of locating those who will be impacted by a loss of rights to water use, there will be serious consequences for British Columbians all across the province,” said Leader of the Official Opposition Shirley Bond.

The NDP never responded to the request, and the deadline was carried out last month.