The province’s new Water Sustainability Act will guarantee the rights of long-time groundwater users over new developments, said Ian Morrison.
Morrison, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s director for Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls, said private residential well owners will fall into the WSA’s “first in time, first in right” system once they register their wells with the province.
That means when residents register their wells, they will be required to provide documentation as to when their well was dug and went into operation.
Morrison said those with seniority on their water use will get priority over those who come later.
“During times of drought, those who dig and register their wells later will be the first impacted if measures must be taken to reduce water usage on the aquifer,” Morrison said.
“Those with seniority on their licences will get all the water they want and the rest will have to fight for what’s left. So people need to be aware of what’s in the new WSA and register their wells as soon as possible.”
Morrison held a public meeting in Lake Cowichan last week to talk about the WSA when the owners of a property on McLean Road raised the ire of their neighbours after they tested the area’s aquifer system recently by pumping out thousands of gallons of water.
The aquifer system was pumped to determine if it would produce enough water for a large housing development that’s being considered by Elk Ridge Estates, which is still in the planning stages.
While the developer had the required permits from the province to conduct the test, the neighbours were concerned about the health of the aquifer after a long hot summer, and the fact that the developer didn’t inform them of the test.
Morrison said more than 40 people attended the meeting and he fully explained the importance of the WSA and the necessity of registering their wells.
“There are no registration fees if they register by March, 2018, and well owners have until March 1, 2019, to bring existing wells into the new licensing system,” he said.
“Many at the meeting raised their concerns over the fact they weren’t informed of the test on McLean Road, so I told them to write a letter to the ministry and I would deliver them at the upcoming meeting of the Union of B.C. Municipalities.”
There are approximately 20,000 existing non-domestic groundwater users in the province that will come under the new water-licensing regime.
As the WSA was being devised, former Liberal Environment Minister Mary Polak said the Act will position B.C. as a leader in water stewardship.
“The new WSA delivers on government’s commitments to modernize B.C.’s water laws, regulate groundwater use and strengthen provincial water management in light of growing demands for water and climate change,” she said at the time.
“Water is our most precious resource and the WSA will ensure that our supply of clean and fresh water is sustainable to meet our needs today and for generations to come.”