Water Act process draws debate

Potential changes to water regulations in B.C. are raising concerns in the North Okanagan.

Potential changes to water regulations in B.C. are raising concerns in the North Okanagan.

The North Okanagan Regional District board has asked staff to investigate the possible impact of the province’s modernization of the B.C. Water Act.

“It could have a dramatic effect on all jurisdictions,” said director Will Hansma.

The Water Act, which was established in 1909, dictates use of provincial water resources.

“With changes in climate, population, and water use, it is now time to review the act to address new pressures on water,” states a government website.

“Modernizing the Water Act is not about fixing something that is broken. Instead it is about recognizing that the context and foundation upon which the Water Act was built was very different 100 years ago.”

The government plans to regulate groundwater use in certain areas, and that is a concern for Hansma.

“If municipalities draw from wells and streams, there will be a significant impact on budgets because treatment facilities will have to deal with well water,” he said.

Beyond municipalities, Hansma says treatment costs could become onerous for small, rural utilities.

“We need to know how this will affect us as a region.”

There is also some concern that the provincial government could cancel licenses communities require to access water from lakes and creeks.

“We have the new Duteau Creek treatment plant worth $30 million and they could come along and say your license has ended,” said director Mike Macnabb.

There is a limited timeline to provide feedback to the government so NORD staff will report back to the board Feb. 2.

“We need to stand shoulder to shoulder on this because we’ll all be impacted by the requirements from government,” said Hansma.