On March 11, 2014, BC's legislature began deliberations over
the proposed new Water Sustainability Act, which, if
passed into law, will replace the current Water Act.
Currently in first reading, this Act has been long in the making,
with public consultations reaching back to 2009. The government has
advised that the new Act will become law in the spring of
In this bulletin, we highlight aspects of the proposed Act which
may be of interest to land owners, developers and local
The proposed Water Sustainability Act currently contains
(among other things) the following provisions, which would be a
change to the current provincial regime if passed into law:
Prohibits unauthorized diversion of
groundwater: The Act will prohibit unauthorized
diversion of stream water and groundwater. The proposed Act also
asserts the provincial government's ownership over both types
of water. In terms of groundwater, this change is significant: the
current Water Act does not address groundwater ownership,
or require an authorization to divert groundwater;
Requires impact analysis of environmental flow
needs of a stream: The Act will require that the
Ministry consider the impact of a license on the environmental
water flow in a stream, prior to issuing the licence. Licensing
applicants may be required to commission a professional report
evaluating the stream's flow needs and, possibly, proposing
measures to address any effects on such flow;
Regulates subdivision approval and land use
decisions: The Act contemplates that the Ministry may
designate areas as subject to water sustainability plans. If a
water sustainability plan is implemented for a given area, such a
plan will restrict the authority of approving officers and local
governments to regulate subdivision and land use in that area;
Regulates development of land in riparian
areas: The Act will rename the Fish
Protection Act to be known as the Riparian Areas
Protection Act and will clarify the government's authority
to make regulations concerning development in riparian areas. It is
possible that, as part of this amendment, the government will amend
the current Riparian Areas Regulation, and, in turn, the
local government development procedures implemented pursuant to
We will be monitoring the proposed Act as it makes its way
through the legislature, and will provide a more in-depth update
when passed into law.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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