New rules governing groundwater usage in B.C. are set to take effect next March, requiring businesses to pay water fees and rentals if they pull from wells.
Provincially there are an estimated 20,000 groundwater users for non-domestic uses, that is, for business purposes. The legislation passed as the Water Sustainability Act in 2016, with a planned six-year transition period.
Part of the logic in licensing users is to establish a priority of users so that in times of scarcity, there’s a “first in time, first in right” (FITFIR) method to determine whose usage will be curtailed first. It will be the first time groundwater use is being regulated in B.C. Streamwater use has been managed in this way for decades.
Any business that has registered before the mandatory March 2022 date will have priority in the event of a conflict in times of scarcity.
The government estimates there are 5,000 businesses operating with groundwater on the bottom third of Vancouver Island, – roughly Fanny Bay and south. As of Aug. 18, only 926 have registered in that region. (Provincially 4,100 have registered.)
Domestic well users are not required to register or pay water usage fees, though the government does encourage well owners to register their well to make sure decision-makers are aware of the usage when considering other licence applications in the area.
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