The quantity and quality of our water supply is essential to public health and sustainable communities.
Our climate is changing while our population and our economy continue to grow, increasing the demands and pressures on our water resources. Living Water Smart is British Columbia's vision for sustainable water stewardship. Living Water Smart sets targets for all British Columbians to work towards protecting our water resources, using water efficiently and ensuring that water is available for public health, economic development, and environmental sustainability.
Groundwater and Wells
Groundwater is water naturally occurring below the surface of the ground. If you use water from a well, then you are a groundwater user. Groundwater wells provide access to water for thousands of residents, businesses and municipalities across B.C.
As of March 2, 2022, if you are using groundwater for any non-domestic purpose, you are required to obtain a water licence to lawfully use, divert, or store the groundwater. This can be done by submitting a water licence application to FrontCounter BC.
- Learn more about groundwater licensing
- Learn more about groundwater wells
- Video: It's called groundwater! (June 2014)
- Groundwater Protection Regulation
- Licensing Existing Groundwater Users brochure (PDF, 162 KB)
- Groundwater Protection Information for Well Owners brochure (PDF, 898 KB); Print Version (PDF, 902 KB)
- Groundwater Protection Information for Well Drillers and Well Pump Installers brochure (PDF, 851 KB); Print Version (845 KB)
- Before You Drill brochure (PDF, 152 KB); Print Version (PDF, 805 KB)
Laws and Rules
Protecting our water supply means regulating its use so that water is available to sustain environmental, economic and human needs. Many of the commitments in Living Water Smart have been incorporated into the Water Sustainability Act (WSA) and associated regulations.
A water right is the authorized use of surface water or groundwater under a water licence or approval. There are authorized uses of water outside of licensing, for example the use of unrecorded water, or the use of groundwater for domestic purposes. The Act and regulations provide rules, guidance and standards for gaining the right to use water, and for using water safely, responsibly and sustainably.
- Learn more about water licensing and rights
- Apply for a water licence
- Laws and rules governing water use, including new regulations under the WSA
- Water Sustainability Act
- Learn how the Water Sustainability Act was developed
- Water Sustainability Act brochure (PDF, 147 KB)
Water plays an important role in agriculture, power generation and in replenishing municipal water reserves. Snow and precipitation runoff from the mountains affects river levels, groundwater supply in aquifers and water availability. Surface water and groundwater quantity are monitored throughout the province to help plan for future water use and to guard against flood or drought conditions.
- Water Survey of Canada hydrometric data
- Groundwater Observation Well Network
- Provincial Hydrology Program
Drought, Flooding, Dikes and Dams
Too much or too little water can pose risks to people, property, infrastructure, cultural values and the environment. The government of British Columbia is committed to reducing the risks of flooding and drought.
- Drought, Flooding, Dikes and Dams
- Dam Safety Regulation Requirements for Dam Owners brochure (PDF, 87 KB) Print Version (PDF, 809 KB)
Water is one of B.C.’s most important natural resources and must be managed appropriately to protect both human and ecosystem health.
Working Around Water
Modifications to the nature of a stream, including any modification to the flow of water or area adjacent to the stream, can create risk to personal or public safety and to the environment.
Water Planning and Strategies
With the growing demand for water comes the increasing need to create plans for water use. Planning our use of water ahead of time helps us to manage water supply and prepare for potential future problems.
Water conservation is critical in summer months but year-round water conservation has significant benefits as well. Reducing water consumption decreases the amount of water that requires treatment, as well as sewage and infrastructure costs.
Science and Data
Discover some of the information, data, applications and geographic services that help to guide our management of water in B.C.