Action Areas for the Northeast Water Strategy
Five action areas are identified to achieve Northeast B.C.’s water stewardship objectives, based on water issues identified by First Nations, other levels of government, industry and local communities.
These actions recognize the existing water management activities, the current and future demand for water resources and form the framework for all Northeast Water Strategy partners to responsibly use and manage water resources in Northeast B.C.
Improving information resources and addressing knowledge gaps based on forecasted development opportunities and water use will support informed and effective decision-making.
In 2014, the Province started to develop an Enhanced Water Monitoring (EWM) program for Northeast B.C. as a part of the NEWS development. The goal of enhanced water monitoring is to improve both the understanding of the condition and trend of water resources, and the accessibility of information available to support responsible use and management of water resources in Northeast B.C.
Elements of the Enhanced Water Monitoring System include:
1. A process for identifying and prioritizing monitoring gaps
- Disturbance-Sensitivity Based Approach to Prioritizing Water Monitoring in Northeast B.C. (PDF)
2. A framework for data collection that is publicly accessible
3. Enhanced monitoring through an oversight and funding model with an implementation plan in three initiated water monitoring projects:
NEWS launched three large collaborative projects for enhanced water monitoring, including measuring surface water quantity in priority watersheds, characterizing water quality in watersheds across Northeast B.C., and improving groundwater knowledge through communication, aquifer characterization research and regional research initiatives. Key highlights for groundwater work includes characterizing the Montney Shale Play / South Peace River Regional District aquifers, private well sampling, mapping vulnerable aquifers and improving the provincial groundwater observation well network.
Creating new regulations and effectively implementing existing legislation will strengthen the current regulatory regime. On February 29, 2016, the new Water Sustainability Act (WSA) came into force in B.C. The WSA contains measures to protect stream health, regulate groundwater, address water use during times of scarcity, and expand opportunities to participate in decision-making processes in Northeast B.C. and across the Province.
Key changes now in effect under the WSA and new regulations include:
- New authorizing and permitting requirements for non-domestic groundwater users (e.g., industrial, agricultural).
- Stronger protection for aquatic ecosystems.
- New fees and rentals for water use, including application of fees and rentals to nondomestic groundwater use.
- Expanded protection of groundwater including new requirements for well construction and maintenance.
- Enhanced dam safety and awareness, and compliance and enforcement.
There are strong linkages between the WSA and ongoing water projects in the Northeast B.C. including:
There are more than 20 decision-making processes involved in managing water across Northeast B.C. Coordinating and streamlining these processes and meaningfully consulting with First Nations on decisions that may have the potential to infringe upon their rights and interests improve the efficiency and durability of water decisions.
To help streamline decision-making, these groups and processes are ongoing:
- Inter-agency Northeast Water Steering Committee
- Regional Strategic Environmental Assessment
- Bilateral Water Management Agreements
Effective water monitoring and reporting are the cornerstones of adaptive management of Northeast B.C.’s water resources. They require coordination across all natural resource activities, and commitment from multiple partners to ensure long-term delivery.
To enhance monitoring and reporting, the following tools have been developed:
Water stewardship is everyone’s responsibility. The success of this strategy will be measured years into the future, based on the knowledge, awareness and informed actions of the B.C. government and its partners. Building a strong water stewardship ethic is a long-term goal, and progress will always be ongoing.
The strength of the Northeast Water Strategy is that it relies on all partners for its successful implementation – from identifying priorities to developing research projects to delivering on-the-ground initiatives. In doing that, the partners are actively building a water stewardship ethic as we go. The Northeast Water Strategy asks independent organizations to share information and data, to agree on next steps that may be broader than the interests of their particular organization, and to take on responsibilities and activities that are within scope of their mandate and contribute to the big picture. We are all balancing those priorities with our capacity and our resources.