The Environment Minister for British Columbia, Barry Penner announced a water conservation program driven in part by the changing climate, but also by an acknowledgement that BC uses extreme quantities of water.

Under the plan, according to the Living Water Smart website, “by 2020, water use in British Columbia will be 33 per cent more efficient, and by 2012, government will require all large water users to measure and report their water use.”

Penner said the plan has the steps needed to protect B.C. rivers, lakes and watersheds….

B.C. environment minister announces plan for more effective water use


143494929_1f213e94dd_m One big shift in this plan is a move towards Ecological Watershed Governance, something that has been rumbling around in environmental and scientific think tanks for a number of years.

But the thought without the requisite details doesn’t cut it among many environmentalists…

"There’s no details and the timeline says many of these things may be enacted by 2012. That’s quite a ways down the road", said Craig Orr, executive director of the Watershed Watch Salmon Society.

"We need more details, we have severe water problems in B.C.", Orr said.

According to the government news release, in some areas, like the Okanagan and Gulf Islands, seasonal water shortages are already challenging community water systems, and the fish and aquatic ecosystems that depend on these systems for survival.

With a pdf of what looks to be an excessively glossy brochure available on the website I guess they are hoping for interest from the non technical types, probably mayors, councillors and the like, as well as school kids, cause the real meat of the program is contained in the last two pages of a 48 page pdf.

The information contained in the subpages on the website is generally good, with links to the various programs and goals of the project, particularly the notice of the Water Act modernization program…

Living Water Smart – B.C.’s Water Plan

When water is scarce or where stream health is being threatened tough decisions will need to be made about how to use what is available. To protect aquatic values, water laws will be amended to require water users to cut back on water when there is not enough water to meet all demands.

  1. New water licences are being issued with a condition that allows the province to require the user to cut back diversions in critical periods to protect aquatic life.
  2. For existing water licences the Water Act modernization project will include consultation guidance on how to best regulate water users during these critical periods.
  3. Work will take place with licencees to help clarify how they exercise their rights, such as maximum rates of diversion where it is not stated in licences, to help protect stream flows and ecosystem health.

198946071_9c1f1bdcc4_m For communities that think that business as usual can continue, I’d suggest that this announcement is the start of a radical change of thinking about water as experienced around Australia over the past ten years. The right to waste water will be tougher to justify right down to the personal level.

From my professional perspective as a City Engineer, many of the targets are things that we have decided on as real targets or are already doing, but with this announcement, comes a brand new interest in the provincial role of facilitating and funding watershed management programs and ensuring that stream-health is known as an important indicator of the health of a community’s environment. Have a read through the actions being implemented under this program, I’m hoping there will be funding as part of the mentioned "support"!

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.

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