Water Licences & Approvals

Water licences and approvals allow people to divert, use or store surface water or groundwater, or to make changes in and about a stream.

Water licences and approvals are issued for water use purposes supporting agriculture, commerce, domestic household requirements (surface water only), habitat conservation, industry, natural resources development, power production, water storage and water supply.

The Province of British Columbia authorizes licences and approvals, and holders must comply with provincial, local and in some cases federal regulations.

Provincial rules and regulations for water licences and approvals

At the provincial level, the Water Sustainability Act (WSA) and the Water Sustainability Regulation (2016) provide important and powerful rules and guidance for issuing water licences and approvals, and directing the allocation of surface water and groundwater.

Beneficial use

Under the WSA, anyone who diverts water must make beneficial use of that water. This means using the water as efficiently as practicable, and for the purpose(s) specified by the licence or approval.

Water licences

Water licences allow licensees to divert, store and use specific quantities of water for one or more water use purposes. A water licence may also authorize works related to the diversion and use of the water.

Use approvals

Use approvals (called Section 8 or short-term approvals under the previous Water Act) authorize holders to use water for a period of up to 24 months.

Change approvals

Changes in and about a stream are carried out under change approvals (called Section 9 approvals under the previous Water Act) and notifications. These authorize work in and around streams.