Groundwater access to cost

"People who aren't paying anything for their groundwater now will be paying," said Coldstream Mayor Jim Garlick

Changes coming down the pipeline to B.C.’s Water Act could make it more difficult to access groundwater.

The Ministry of Environment is in the process of modernizing the Water Act by proposing new legislation through the Water Sustainability Act.

Protecting groundwater is one component of the act, which will result in changes to how large rural users access the precious resource.

“People who aren’t paying anything for their groundwater now will be paying,” said Coldstream Mayor Jim Garlick, after a recent meeting with Environment Minister Terry Lake. “There will be a cost for groundwater and it will be more onerous to get your hands on.”

Extraction and use will be regulated for all affect large groundwater withdrawals as well as problem areas across B.C.

According to the ministry: “Groundwater use above a threshold (e.g., more than 10 m3 per day) will be regulated through a licensing process. Water users below the threshold may choose to acquire a licence on a voluntary basis.

“Ten cubic metres per day is approximately 2,500 gallons per day, enough for about five residences or a small agricultural operation.”

For those licensed, a ‘water right’ will provide more secure access to groundwater. It will also protect against negative impacts of neighbouring wells, augment property values and improve the investment climate for land improvements.

Regulating groundwater will help the province manage B.C.’s water resources in a sustainable manner.

There will be an opportunity later this year for British Columbians to comment on the proposals.

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– Vernon Morning Star