As of March 1, 2022, thousands of farms and small businesses that draw water from wells will be required by law to be licensed under BC's Water Sustainability Act (WSA). The WSA, in effect since 2016, requires anybody drawing on groundwater for commercial, industrial or agricultural use (including home-based businesses) to apply for a license and pay rental fees. At the time, the provincial government allowed for a three-year transition period, which was subsequently extended.
However, beginning on March 1, those without licenses are legally required to turn off their water, apply and wait for a license to be granted. The consequences for groundwater users who violate these regulations and continue without licenses are severe, including fines and forfeiture of their historic rights and seniority to use that water.
Each application must be reviewed to determine if any changes are required to existing use of the water source. In some cases, applicants have been waiting years for a decision from the province and costly studies on the water supply may be required. Those who miss the March 1 deadline to submit applications will be treated as new users, which mean they are more likely to be rejected and therefore permanently prohibited from using their water source.
So far, just over 4,000 of the estimated 20,000 non-domestic groundwater users in BC have submitted their applications. Existing groundwater users who submit their applications prior to the March 1 deadline will have application fees waived and be permitted to continue accessing their water source until their application review is completed. These users will be required to pay rental fees retroactive to February 29, 2016 (when the Waters Sustainability Act came into effect).
CapriCMW is a proud member of the BC Ground Water Association, which is actively advocating for its members and other businesses within our communities that will be affected by the licensing requirements.