Category Archives: News

Charting a Course to a Sustainable Water Future

The  Jan/Feb 2018 edition of Innovation Magazine (Journal for the Engineers and Geoscientists of BC), recently featured an article by the Regional District of Nanaimo’s Drinking Water & Watershed Protection program coordinator Julie Pisani.

It highlights the collaborative and leading edge work done in this region’s watersheds and emphasizes the value of partnerships between government agencies, professionals, community members and industry in learning more about our water resources and acting to protect them.

 Read the article here!

If you are interested to engage more on this topic, consider attending the upcoming Nanaimo Water Stewardship Symposium on April 12th, 2018. More information and registration details, here.


Do I need a groundwater license?

The new BC Water Sustainability Act came into force on February 29, 2016. One of the most important pieces of new regulation was regarding groundwater licensing.

The main distinction to make in order to understand groundwater licensing requirements is whether you are a domestic or non-domestic groundwater user. If you are a non-domestic groundwater user, you are now required to obtain a water license from the province.

Domestic Groundwater Use:

Wells used  for domestic (household) purposes a single property ⇒  no license required; encouraged to register well with the Province.

Non- Domestic Groundwater Use:

All uses other than domestic including agriculture, irrigation, commercial, power, waterworks etc.⇒ requires a license.

Key points:

  • a water license grants access to a total annual volume of groundwater; the licensee pays annual ‘rentals’ (fees) to the Province.
  • if you want to avoid an application fee, you must apply for your license prior to December 31, 2017 (extended from March 1, 2017). Rental fees still apply, back dated to when the regulation took effect in 2016.
  • there is a 3-year window (starting from Feb. 29, 2016) to apply for a license in order to maintain status as an ‘existing user’ with a priority date of first use. Applicants after March 1, 2019 will be treated as new users with no historic priority date of use.

More information in this brochure: Licensing Groundwater Use Under the BC Water Sustainability Act

Ready to license your non-domestic well? Start here:

What is the difference between registering your well and licensing your groundwater use?

Groundwater licenses are only attainable (and required) for non-domestic groundwater uses… i.e. uses other than a household well for domestic use… as described above.

Domestic groundwater users are encouraged to register their well(s) with the Province, so their domestic water rights can be recognized. Registering your well creates a record (i.e. a dot on the map) indicating your domestic water use and helps to ensure that your use is considered by the decision makers dealing with other license applications. This is to the domestic well owner’s benefit. There are no fees involved with registering your well, it is just a matter of creating a record. When registering your well you will need any available information such as your well log, well location, well depth etc.

To see if a well record already exists in the Provincial database, contact FrontCounter BC.

Registration is just for domestic use. If you are a non-domestic users, your well is brought into the Provincial system via licensing.

More info at the Provincial webpage: New Requirements for Groundwater Users

Attention farmers! Here is a handy tool to help calculate your irrigation volume, by area, soil and sprinkler type. This can help you determine what annual volume to put on your license application:

Was this blog post helpful? Email with comments, feedback or questions!

New Regulations under the Water Sustainability Act

The Province of BC on February 29, 2016 announced several initial regulations that have now come into force under the Water Sustainability Act.

Some of the highlights are as follows:

Water Sustainability Regulation

  • mandates the licensing of groundwater for non-domestic use – this includes community water supply, agricultural irrigation, industry etc.
  • groundwater users (non-domestic) will have a one-year grace period to apply for a license and have the application fee waived.
  • groundwater users have three years (from Feb. 29, 2016) to apply for a license if they want to maintain their priority date of first use.
  • all applications received after March 1, 2019 will be treated as new users, with no historic priority date of use.

Groundwater Protection Regulation

  • outlines operating and maintenance requirements and standards for groundwater wells.
  • mandates the submission of well records for newly drilled wells.

Other new regulations include: Dam Safety Regulation, Violation Ticket and Fines Regulation, Fees and Rentals Regulation.

Onward from 2016, further essential regulations will be developed under the Water Sustainability Act such as:

  • Water Objectives
  • Water Sustainability Plans
  • Measuring and reporting
  • Licence reviews
  • Designated areas
  • Dedicated agricultural water; and
  • Alternative governance approaches

For more information see the Provincial website at 

For more analysis of the opportunities that the new Act provides, you may be interested in the POLIS Project of Ecological Governance report entitled Awash with Opportunity: Ensuring the Sustainability of BC’s New Water Law

Resolution on Rainwater as a Potable Water Source

The Regional District of Nanaimo  Board has forwarded a resolution regarding Rainwater as a Potable Water Source to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) for consideration at their 2016 AGM and convention in April.

If the resolution is adpoted at the AVICC convention, then it is forwarded to the Union of BC Municipalities convention in September.

The resolution urges the Province via the Ministry of Health to develop rainwater-specific:

  • treatment objectives and standards
  • source characterization protocols
  • infrastructure requirements

… for small water systems in BC that are regulated under the Drinking Water Protection Act.  Small water systems purvey water to the public, for example community centres, restaurants, mobile home parks etc. The need for this resolution comes from the fact that many small water systems that operate under the Act exist in water-stressed locations and would benefit from utilizing rainwater as an alternate / additional source of water to protect and reduce demand on traditional water sources, namely groundwater.

Because rainwater is a non-traditional water source, however, the risks are largely unknown. The quality is inherently variable as collection surfaces and environmental conditions differ from place to place. There are currently no provincial rainwater treatment objectives or standards for characterizing rainwater as a drinking water source. There is currently no comprehensive provincial guidance or framework of requirements for water systems to safely develop and use rainwater for potable purposes.

This lack of guidance and standards makes it difficult for water system operators to confidently and consistently address the safety requirements, and makes it difficult for the local health officers to approve rainwater source proposals. Ultimately this limits the successful utilization of rainwater as a potentially suitable additional water source to increase resiliency in rural areas.

If the Province, via the Ministry of Health, had a comprehensive framework that was developed through research, it would improve the prospect of rainwater being used as a safe alternative drinking water source. This is what the RDN is urging of the Province, to ultimately build community self-sufficiency and resilience in rural areas.

See the report to the RDN Board and attached resolution, here:

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Province invites comment on proposed water policies

We just learned that the Province has opened up a comment period with regards to proposed regulations that will come into force under the Water Sustainability Act in 2016.

See their online comment forum here:

The proposed policies include:

  • Licensing (non-domestic) groundwater use
  • Updated groundwater protection regulations
  • Dam safety
  • Strengthening compliance

Feedback is accepted until September 8th, 2015.


Drought Means Water Conservation is in Full Swing

UPDATED July 8th

Vancouver Island has seen an extremely warm and dry spring and early summer. Record low snowpack has meant that the spring snowmelt came early and was short-lived, for a quicker transition to historic low-streamflow. More info at the River Forecast Centre website.

The Province issued “Very Dry” Drought Conditions for Vancouver Island in early June , advising local authorities to implement voluntary conservation measures to reduce water demand on the strained supply. See the article here: Islanders urged to conserve water. In early July, the Province escalated drought levels for Vancouver Island to “Extremely Dry”, to convey the severity of low streamflows and impact to water supply. This also enables Provincial regulatory response such as the Angling Ban.

The RDN initiated Level 3 Watering Restrictions in mid-June and as of July 9th is RDN Water Conservation Level 4 - iconnow under a Level 4 Comprehensive Watering Ban.

The Level 4 Comprehensive Watering Ban applies to the 8 RDN water service areas including Nanoose Bay Peninsula. The City of Parksville shares the same water restrictions as the RDN.

This prohibits all outdoor lawn and garden sprinkling, vehicle washing and power-washing. Watering by hand-held container, hose with shut-off nozzle and drip irrigation is permitted only for vegetables, flowers, trees and shrubs.

Team WaterSmart is across the region with their interactive booth on water conservation and water protection throughout the summer. Be sure to keep an eye out for them in your community! Tips and resources at

One Stop Shop for BC Water Info

Check it out!

Navigating the different Provincial websites for information on water is certainly not always easy, as the vast subject of water spans many Ministries and the info is not presented in a one-window type of format.

Now, however, Canada’s Premiers have consolidated all the links to everything to do with water info for each Province in one spot! It’s Canada’s Water InfoStream.

They have organized and displayed the information under the catch-all headings of:

  • Water for Nature
  • Water for Communities
  • Water and the Economy
  • Water Governance
  • Reports and Educational Resources

…but they also display all the sub-topics under each heading so it is plain to see and easier to navigate. Try it out next time you need water info from the province!

Water Blog - Water info stream

Interactive Graphs on Groundwater Levels in BC

The BC Ministry of Environment, Environmental Reporting division, has come out with a great new way to see how Groundwater Levels are faring across the province. Their data comes from a network of dedicated observation wells that monitor groundwater availability in developed areas.

To get the scoop, and play with the interactive graphs, check out

Water Budget - BC Obs well site image

NOTE (Feb.2016): These interactive graphs have unique functionality but are only current to 2014 – to access the more current BC Observation Wells data (less interactive) please see:

There are 34 provincial observation wells which are currently active. Through a grant-funded, multi-government level partnership, 17 of these wells were added to the network between 2011 – 2013 as part of an expansion initiative to gain more groundwater data in the RDN.

4 of the wells in the RDN are displaying “large declines” according to the provincial data. 3 are showing “moderate declines” and 17 do not have enough data for trend analysis (those would be for the most part the newly added wells!) 10 have shown levels to be “stable or increasing”.

Also, a new video “It’s called groundwater!” helps explain this important resource.

Its called gw - youtube



Recap of Nanaimo Water Day

Thanks to all who came out to Nanaimo Water Day!

There were approx. 75 people who attended the event. It was a great opportunity to share some of the science and policy that affects our region. As we gain deeper understanding of our water resources through data collection and scientific research, we can better implement programs and policy that ensures watershed protection.

Here is a sample of some of the presentations that were given:

Yves Michaud – Geological Survey of Canada, Groundwater Program

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Graeme Henderson – Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations, BC Observation Well Network

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Ian Graeme – Ministry of Environment, New Water Sustainability Act 

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Oliver Brandes – POLIS Project, Blueprint for Watershed Governance in BC

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Pat Lapcevic – Gabriola Water Budget Study

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Rosie Barlak – Ministry of Environment, Community Watershed Monitoring Network (RDN)

Download (PDF, Unknown)

[ Click here for the three other presentations that were too large to post on this page ] ***

Water Experts coming to Nanaimo Water Day! March 21st

Let’s fill the room! Take a look…


Check out our Free symposium on March 21st at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre from 8:30am – 5:00pm in celebration of Canada Water Week! Come listen to an array of scientists and local experts and learn about  local water initiatives and studies, including the RDN Water Budget Study.

Yves_picYves Michaud

After completing a Master’s degree at Université Laval, in physical geography, Yves undertook a Ph.D. degree in geological sciences at Queen’s University.  In his present position as Geoscience Manager with the Geological Survey of Canada, Yves contributes to the development of the scientific program at GSC-Québec and to the delivery of the Groundwater Geoscience Program through the management of human, financial and technical resources.  He is also responsible for the division’s research infrastructures and a member on several interdepartmental and international committees, such as the Council of Great Lakes Research Managers of the International Joint Commission and the Groundwater Project Team, a sub-committee of the Canadian Council of Ministry of Environment (CCME).

Topic: The Nanaimo Lowlands aquifer characterization study and assessment of groundwater sustainability carried out by the Geological Survey of Canada between 2010 – 2013. This project employed seismic surveys and borehole geophysics to study the complex aquifers that exist in the Nanaimo Lowlands, and ultimately contributed to the development of a 3D hydrogeological model to better understand ground water sustainability.


Graeme_picGraeme Henderson

Graeme Henderson has been a Groundwater Technician with the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations for the last six years. He is responsible for the operation and maintenance of 70+ monitoring wells from the Provincial Observation Well Network in the West Coast Region. Graeme has a diploma from Sir Sandford Fleming College in Ontario and is currently working towards a Geoscience degree from Vancouver Island University.

Topic:  The Provincial Observation Well Network expansion; the story of how three levels of government worked together to gain a better understanding about regional groundwater resources.


Pat_picPat Lapcevic

Pat Lapcevic is a senior hydrogeologist and Water Protection team leader with the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.  She studied Earth Sciences and hydrogeology at the University of Waterloo and has over 25 years of experience conducting groundwater studies.  Since 2005, based in Nanaimo, Pat has studied the groundwater resources of various parts of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.  She currently resides on Gabriola Island.

Topic: The results of the Gabriola Island Water Budget Study that was completed in 2013 by SRK Consultants as part of the RDN’s Drinking Water and Watershed Protection Program.  The study provides an overview of the hydrogeology of the Gabriola, Mudge & DeCourcy Islands, water budget methods and results. Understanding both how much water is needed and how much is available is important to the Gulf Islands which rely on groundwater as their main source of freshwater.


David_picDavid van Everdingen

Dr. David van Everdingen is with Waterline Resources Inc. and  has 20 years of academic, consulting and government experience in hydrogeology. His background includes assessment and monitoring of regional groundwater flow systems, evaluation of Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) technology for management of water resources, and various hydrogeology investigations related to sanitary landfill projects. David’s principal areas of expertise are in characterization, monitoring and assessment of local and regional groundwater flow systems, and hydrogeological database development and the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Topic:   The recent RDN Water Budget Study that was developed to better understand the surface and groundwater flow systems within the RDN. It was an initial attempt to consider the inputs and outputs from the surface water and groundwater systems using existing data on a water region basis. The compiled data, in conjunction with water use data, was used to assess the level of stress on each of the six water regions and 28 mapped aquifers across the Vancouver Island area of the RDN.


Craig_picCraig Sutherland, M.Sc., P.Eng.

Craig Sutherland is a water resources engineer with Kerr Wood Leidal Associates Ltd. based in Victoria, BC.   Since starting as a consulting engineer in 2001, he has focused on surface water hydrology for water resources planning and design on Vancouver Island.  He completed a Masters Degree at the University of Glasgow in 2004, which focused on Climate Change impacts on hydrology of the Scottish Highlands (of course the important source of water for whiskey).  Since then, he has been focused on developing tools and approaches to assess climate change impacts on water resources and developing adaptation plans.

Topic:  See above – RDN Water Budget Study (surface water component)


Rosie_picRosie Barlak

Rosie has been an Environmental Impact Assessment Biologist with the Ministry of Environment since 2005 and has worked in various biologist positions with the Province of BC for 12 years. She has an M.Sc. from the University of Tromso, Norway, a B.Sc. from the University of Victoria, and additional biology work experience from both arctic and tropical environments.

Topic: The Community Watershed Monitoring program within the RDN and how it fits in to the BC Ministry of Environment’s water quality monitoring network. Rosie has been encouraging community driven science by getting her feet wet in local streams with stewardship groups and will speak on the importance and successes of partnerships in this program.


Ian_picIan Graeme

Ian is with the Water Protection and Sustainability Branch of the BC Ministry of the Environment. He has been working on the Province’s Living Water Smart Plan since 2009.  His responsibilities over the last few years have included managing the engagement process for the Water Act modernization project. A professional forester, Ian is passionate about water and also has a strong interest in public participation and community engagement.

Topic: The New Water Sustainability Act, which is an update and replacement for the existing Water Act for BC, which has been in place since 1909. Ian will provide details on how the new Act will balance the needs of all water users to  ensure our supply of fresh, clean water is sustainable for today and generations to come.


Oliver Brandes – POLIS Water Sustainability Project (Victoria) on A Blueprint for Watershed Governance 

Arnd Burgert – GW Solutions on The Englishman River – Groundwater & Surface Water Interaction Study

For an event that is not to be missed!

Questions? Call (250) 390 6586 or email