Surface and groundwater are renewable resources but a balance must be struck between water needed to maintain healthy ecosystems and the demand for water by humans.
Although the Phase One Water Budget project sets the framework for assessing water availability versus water demand, considerable gaps exist in the data which need to be filled to provide a more accurate picture of current and future water conditions. The objective in water management is to achieve “sustainability” of water resources. This is simply not possible in the absence of proper monitoring data.
The BC Water Act Modernization process appears to be focused on public consultation and attempting to address the issue of water rights which has caused considerable delay in developing legislation. No matter who owns the rights to the water, sustainable management practices need to be implemented as water supply wells continue to be drilled and aquifers exploited as the demand for water continually rises.
Approaches to water management are relatively well understood and not unique to the province British Columbia. Developing guidelines that lead to improved knowledge of surface water and groundwater systems within each water region has been done by other jurisdiction across Canada and is simply good practice. The absence of Provincial guidelines which include standards of practice for all water practitioners and mandatory monitoring and data submission requirements (i.e.: well logs are only one example), risks the continuance of non-sustainable water management practices.
On-going land development and increasing water demand, combined with the potential effects of climate change will undoubtedly continue to place stress on surface water and groundwater resources in ways that we cannot predict or understand with current datasets.
The RDN has taken a proactive step with the initiation of the Phase One Water Budget Project.
The cooperation of residents, water purveyors, drillers, water practitioners, corporations, municipal/provincial/federal regulatory officials is needed in order to move forward to a sustainable future.