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Do I need a groundwater license?

Important information:

You are now required to obtain a water license from the Province if you are a non-domestic groundwater user.

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.

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 March 1, 2022. Rental fees still apply, back dated to when the regulation took effect in 2016.
  • existing groundwater users have until March 1, 2022 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, 2022 will be treated as new users with no historic priority date of use.

Secure your water rights today! More info at the Provincial webpage: New Requirements for Groundwater Users

Ready to license your non-domestic well? Start here:  http://www.frontcounterbc.gov.bc.ca/Start/ground-water/

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.

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 waterprotection@rdn.bc.ca with comments, feedback or questions!