The BCAC Water Sustainability Committee continues engaging with the Province to ensure BC's new Water Sustainability Act (WSA) works for BC farmers and ranchers. During the year, there was some confusion within government on what details are required for licensing existing groundwater users. With considerable input from the BC Cattlemen’s Association, we had a number of meetings with Ministry of Environment staff, as well as both ministers involved (Environment and Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations). While not all of the bugs have been removed, the application forms have been simplified and the fee-waived period extended. The new deadline to apply for a licence is March 1, 2022.
For information on the new groundwater licensing process—including the application itself—the new fee and rental schedule, and an online calculator to help you estimate your usage requirements, call 1-877-855-3222 or visit:FRONT COUNTER BC>>
The BCAC Water Working Group is a joint committee between BCAC and the BC Ministry of Agriculture and an ad hoc committee currently providing agricultural representation during the Water Act modernization process. The Working Group ensures that BC’s food-producing sectors remain on radar during the review and development of new legislation, Water Sustainability Act, which may influence how water resources are managed throughout the province.
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The Province is reminding farmers who were using groundwater on or before February 29, 2016, for non-domestic purposes such as irrigation and livestock watering, that they are legally required to apply for a water licence by March 1, 2022.
- Farmers who have applied by the deadline can continue to use groundwater until a decision is made on their application. Those continuing to use groundwater without applying for a license after March 1, 2022 will be committing an offence under the Water Sustainability Act and may be subject to fines and penalties and ordered to stop using water.
- Those who apply after the deadline must apply as a new groundwater user and will lose recognition of their historical date of first use. Their new priority date will in most cases be the date of the application. A new application can be refused if there is not enough water.
- New applicants are also required to pay the one-time application fee (minimum $250) and may need to provide evidence to support groundwater availability. Water cannot be lawfully diverted, used or stored until a license has been obtained.
- Applications can be made online at groundwater.gov.bc.ca. Anyone who needs help with their water licence application can contact FrontCounter BC at 1-877-855-3222.
- For more information about what you need to do before you apply and if you need a water licence, visit https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/air-land-water/water/gwlicensingqas-2020.pdf
- Here is a helpful checklist from FrontCounterBC.
- You will need to apply for a B.C. electronic identification (i.e., a basic BCeID) to be able to save your existing use groundwater application.