JBL Environmental Services Ltd.

BC Water Regulations

BC Provincial Water Sustainability Act Regulations

The Province of British Columbia has regulations and legal requirements that need to be observed when working around water. These requirements are enforced by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) and include the Water Sustainability Act, the Fish Protection Act, and the Riparian Area Regulation (RAR). The new Water Sustainability Act has been modernized, the updated Act came into force in early 2016: new The Water Sustainability Act Regulation requires a similar notification or authorization process, depending on the type of work being proposed. A number of routine works can be carried out under the notification process, provided that particular conditions are met. There is no cost associated with submitting a notification application; however, there is a waiting period of 45 days waiting period. If you don’t receive a response from the ministry within 45 days, you can proceed with the work. An approval or licence under the Water Sustainability Act is required in cases involving more complex works, as well as for the short-term use, storage or diversion of water. A fee of $130 is required as part of the authorization application prior to conducting changes in or about a stream. There is a waiting period associated with this process is up to 180 days. If an activity is not specifically identified in the Water Sustainability Act regulation, it will require an approval or licence. The following sections of the Water Sustainability Act apply:

  • Section 9 regulates “all changes in or about a stream” and requires a Water Sustainability Act approval for any modification to the nature of the stream, including the land, vegetation, natural environment or flow of water within the stream, or any activity or construction within the stream channel that has or may have an impact on a stream.
  • Part 7 of “the Regulation” mandates that water quality, fish and wildlife habitat and the rights of licensed water users are not compromised.
  • The new Water Act will include provisions that regulate ground water extraction and protection measures.

The Fish Protection Act is included under the Water Sustainability Act, and requires that regulators must consider impacts on fish and fish habitat before approving new licences, amendments to licences or issuing approvals for work in or near streams. The Ministry of Environment (MoE) leads the process of designating Sensitive Streams, which requires consultation with numerous stakeholders, municipalities, First Nations communities and the public. The Fish Protection Act focuses on four major objectives:

  • Ensuring sufficient water for fish;
  • Protection and restoration of fish habitat;
  • Improved riparian protection and enhancement; and
  • Stronger local government powers in environmental planning.

The Riparian Areas Regulation (RAR) was enacted under Section 12 of the Riparian Areas Protection Act (2016), by the Government of BC. The Act requires local governments to protect riparian areas during residential, commercial, and industrial development. The purpose of the RAR is to protect riparian area features that border onto streams, lakes and wetlands, including:

  • Sources of large organic debris, such as fallen trees;
  • Areas for stream channel migration;
  • Vegetative cover to help moderate water temperature;
  • Provision of food, nutrients and organic matter to the stream;
  • Stream bank stabilization; and,
  • Buffers for streams from excessive silt and surface runoff pollution. 

The RAR requires that an assessment of riparian vegetation function be conducted and a Streamside Protection and Enhancement Area (SPEA) be established prior to the start of any project that will impact a riparian zone. The RAR assessment evaluates the required SPEA setbacks. As a result of the Fish Protection Act, many local municipal governments have drafted their own fisheries and aquatic protection regulations, which must be considered prior to the commencement of work. The RAR applies to local governments on the east side of Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and the Southern Interior of British Columbia.

 Copyright John Black 2014. All rights reserved.