BC Water Sustainability Act
The new Water Sustainability Act (the Act) was passed on February 29, 2016 and came into effect as of March 1, 2016. This has impacted the way water use and storage applications are handled in BC.
Some of the biggest changes for the OGC and the oil & gas industry are Stream Definition changes for water use, Environmental Flow Needs (EFN) assessments, the inclusion of rights holders in the application process and the change for Section 8 and Section 9 applications.
The stream definition change is for water use as covered by the Act, not for stream crossings during construction. For OGAA activities that include stream crossings please refer to the Environment Protection & Management Regulation (EPMR) definition of a stream. The Stream Definition for the Act includes all natural water sources such as a lake, pond, river, creek, spring, ravine, gulch, wetland (swamp, marsh, fen or prescribed feature) or glacier, whether or not usually containing water, including ice.
EFN is a new consideration in licensing and approval decisions for streams and aquifers and includes areas that might be hydraulically connected. The assessment is for “the volume and timing of water flow required for the proper functioning of the aquatic ecosystem of the stream” and needs to take into consideration any other water source that may be hydraulically connected to the one being applied for. The OGC is also now mandated to place a moratorium on water withdrawal for industry purposes should there be a threat of drought in the area.
The inclusion of rights holders in the application process encompasses all existing license holders and any that have made application but haven’t been granted rights yet. Finding out who the applicants are may prove to be a little more difficult, according to the OGC, and also the rights holders are able to make objections to the application up to 30 days after the granting of a licence.
Section 10 – Short-Term Water Use application (Use approvals in the Act) & Section 11 – Watercourse Crossing and Works application (Changes in and about a stream in the Act) are replacing the Section 8 & Section 9 applications and the forms are found on the OGC website.
There are also three licence applications: Surface Water, Groundwater and Existing Use Groundwater. The licencing fee is being waived for the first year – until March 1, 2017 – for any new or existing use, and permits that are in place now have three years to be transferred over. If your existing permit expires before March 1, 2019 and you will not be needing it again, then you do not have to apply for the new licence.