B.C. modernizing water act

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A presentation given to Fort St. John’s City Council Monday, outlining how the province is updating its Water Sustainability Act.

The City’s Director of Infrastructure and Capital Works Victor Shopland gave a presentation on the province’s modernization of the act.

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The provincial water act dictates who can use available water and how much of it can be used. It also outlines how the Province is working to monitor the resource’s usage.

The Province will be reviewing its water laws in order to improve how it uses water and monitors water usage. Some changes to the act will include increasing community involvement in decision making and regulating the use of ground water in priority areas.

The process to modernize the water act will go through four key phases before being approved. The first phase required a review and background research on provincial water usage, which has already been completed.

The second phase involves policy development. This phase has already begun with the 2009 launch of the Living Water Smart Blog. The blog allows residents to voice their ideas and concerns with regards to water usage.

The third phase will start this spring when the new legislation will be drafted.

Finally, the fourth phase will be when the bill is introduced into the legislature and will be voted on for approval.

Council discussed the importance for this type of legislation in the province. The province’s water supply is affected by numerous factors including climate change, a growing population and the government’s inability to accurately measure how much water is being used.

At the local level, Shopland says there are several factors that affect water usage in Fort St. John. These demands include competing water interests, the effect that land and resource development has on the city’s water supply as well as an increasing demand for groundwater, which is not regulated in B.C.

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Once implemented, the updated Water Sustainability Act will provide a variety of policy directions. Some key directions outlined in the policy include protecting stream health and aquatic environments, regulating ground water usage, improving water security and efficiency and measuring and reporting water usage.

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