Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

RANCH MUSINGS: Groundwater licensing a crisis in the making

One of the major aspects of this new law is the requirement that to use groundwater

Groundwater licensing is a serious issue. All users of groundwater, other than domestic users, must get an application for a license in to government before March 1, 2022. This deadline has been set under the “new” Water Sustainability Act (WSA) which came into force in 2016.

In case one thinks this is a partisan political issue, remember it was before the NDP was elected as government, it was the BC Liberal government that brought in this modernization of the Water Act.

One of the major aspects of this new law is the requirement that to use groundwater (not surface water which already had this requirement of licensing) a user other than a domestic (household) user must license the use.

This new WSA removed the old common law right to use water (riparian right) if it was near your residence (on your property). Common law rights to water are replaced by a statutory right (laws created by the provincial legislature which has jurisdiction over water, including groundwater that is within the province)

It has been since the 1990s that local areas experiencing shortages or conflicts over water, could apply to have a licensing area established and ground water rights governed in that area.

The reason this enabling legislation was enacted then was that under Canadian law, unless there was a regulatory regime (acts and regulations) for water, there could not be a restriction on the export of water from the province. This meant that a groundwater well could be pumped for export out of B.C.

There was a real fear that the demand for safe water would create a rush on the use of water for export.

It took years of consultation with stakeholders for government to formulate and create the legislation.

Now we have the legislation and regulations giving effect to much of the WSA. Deadlines for the submission of applications have been extended — most recently from 2019 to 2022.

The water users of concern here are not the households but the “industrial/commercial” users including large hobby farms, commercial ranches with more than a few head of livestock, suppliers of water to subdivisions, and any other users that need water to process their product.

In April, 2021, “the partnership for water sustainability in B.C.,” published a backgrounder calling for government to do more to avert this pending crisis: the 20,000 users of groundwater will be illegally using water for their businesses.

Only 4,000 of them have put in an application, leaving 16,000 at risk of not securing their rights.

This means that after March, 2022 new applications will take precedence over historical groundwater users.

In times of drought and if the water table is not replenished in a drying climate, there is not protection. Of course, there is no guarantee of water for a license holder, but they will at least be in line for some water if it is there.

The partnership mentioned above reminds us that it is taking three or more years currently to process a groundwater license application.

READ MORE: Cariboo-made music video launched in time for Earth Day 2021

They also suggest the way forward is to have a cabinet minister responsible for overseeing the implementation of the WSA and a dedicated, enhanced group of officials processing applications.

They also note that it might just take some adaptation of the strategy to get the job done.

After March 2022, it may well be more expensive to apply for water rights, since much of the cost is waived as an incentive to get people to apply.

After March 2022, traditional users will be forgoing their present rights which will go back into a common pool of water available for application.

Go to Waterbucket eNews for their publication on the emerging crisis around groundwater legislation implementation, April 20, 2021: https://waterbucket.ca/wscblog/.

If you have further concerns, write to the premier.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: cassidy.dankochik@quesnelobserver.com


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.


Just Posted

Environment Canada has issued a thunderstorm watch for the Cariboo north including Quesnel. (Black Press file image)
Environment Canada issues thunderstorm watch for Quesnel

A chance of thundershowers is forcasted to last until Tuesday

The Gold Pan Grannies attended the Quesnel Farmers’ Market where they sold perennials and vegetable plants and fruit trees by donation Saturday, May 29. They were able to raise $1,000 for the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Gold Pan Grannies raise $1,000 for Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign

Annual plant sale at Quesnel Farmers’ Market a success

Amy Vardy is one of four dancers to compete in their final year of the Quesnel Festival of the Performing Arts. (Submitted Photo)
Quesnel Festival of the Arts graduating dancer profile: Amy Vardy

The Quesnel Festival of the Performing arts is honouring their graduating dancers

Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)
RANCH MUSINGS: Predictions of climate variability and effects on agriculture

Oliver Rujanschi, we will miss you and the warmth that you were. Sorry friend

Emily Nelson is one of four graduating dancers honoured by the Quesnel Festival of the Performing Arts.(Submitted Photo - Robyn Louise Photography)
Quesnel Festival of the Arts graduating dancer profile: Emily Nelson

The Festival of the Arts is honouring graduating dancers

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

Harvesting hay in the Fraser Valley. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
COVID-19: B.C. waives farm income requirement for a second year

Property owners don’t need minimum income for 2022 taxes

Cruise ship passengers arrive at Juneau, Alaska in 2018. Cruise lines have begun booking passengers for trips from Seattle to Alaska as early as this July, bypassing B.C. ports that are not allowed to have visitors until March 2022 under a Canadian COVID-19 restrictions. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire)
B.C. doesn’t depend on U.S. law to attract cruise ships, Horgan says

Provinces to get update next week on Canada’s border closure

This undated photo provided by Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails shows a scout donating cookies to firefighters in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, as part of the Hometown Heroes program. As the coronavirus pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many Girl Scout troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons. That resulted in millions of boxes of unsold cookies. (Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails via AP)
Thinner Mints: Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies

Since majority of cookies are sold in-person, pandemic made the shortfall expected

In this artist’s sketch, Nathaniel Veltman makes a video court appearance in London, Ont., on June 10, 2021 as Justice of the Peace Robert Seneshen (top left) and lawyer Alayna Jay look on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould
Terror charges laid against London attack suspect

Crown says Nathaniel Veltman’s four counts of first-degree murder constitute an act of terrorism

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province's fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Most Read