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Water legislation generates local debate
North Okanagan politicians are closely watching proposed changes to how water is governed.
Armstrong and Spallumcheen officials met with Environment Minister Mary Polak Tuesday to discuss the new Water Sustainability Act.
“We asked about registering wells and how they will control that,” said Janice Brown, Spallumcheen mayor.
“We also want to know how they will figure out how much water people can use. We don’t want them to tell people with wells and groundwater what they can’t use.”
Brown is also concerned the legislation could lead to provincial downloading on municipalities.
“When people are angry about water, it’s our office they walk into, not the ministry,” she said.
“They fine tune the rules to protect themselves.”
Because Armstrong has few wells and gets its water from Fortune Creek, the city isn’t concerned about the new legislation.
“The process won’t impact Armstrong a whole lot,” said Mayor Chris Pieper.
The Water Sustainability Act will focus on stream health, consider water in land-use decisions, regulate and protect groundwater, regulate water-use during times of scarcity, improve water use efficiency, measure and report large scale water use and provide for a range of governance approaches.
“It’s a full and complete rewrite of complex legislation,” said Polak.
“There are no regulations for groundwater whatsoever. Even the legislation for surface water is outdated.”
Polak says her ministry is aware of the pressure for water in the fast-growing Okanagan.
“The legislation will enable a range of governance options of the water resource,” she said.
“You could see a water sustainability plan in local regions where there is greater community involvement.”
British Columbians can provide feedback on the legislation until Nov. 15.
For more information, go to http://engage.gov.bc.ca/wastersustainabilityact/