COMPARISON:
Proposed Water Sustainability Act (2010) AGAINST ENGO Statement of Expectations (2009) AND Living Water Smart (2008)

Prepared by Randy Christensen, lawyer | Ecojustice
and Linda Nowlan, Director of Pacific Conservation | WWF-Canada

In 2008, the BC Government announced Living Water Smart. Living Water Smart (LWS) promised long-needed changes to the Province’s rules for allocating water, and made significant new commitments, such as legislating environmental flow protection and regulating groundwater. For the past three years, the Ministry of Environment has met with members of the public, accepted submissions, and run a refreshingly transparent and inclusive consultation process.

The ENGO Statement of Expectations (SOE) released in December 2009 provides a comprehensive view of what is needed to protect water quality and quantity, adapt to climate change, and guarantee appropriate public participation in water governance decisions. Twenty-nine non-governmental organizations endorsed the SOE.

In December 2010, the BC Ministry of Environment released a proposed framework for the Water Sustainability Act (WSA) addressing initial stages of “Water Act Modernization.”

Positive aspects of the proposed WSA

Proposes “Provincial Water Objectives” which will attempt to coordinate the various decisions that may affect water (a much needed development)

Makes significant progress toward the regulation of groundwater (but could be more comprehensive)

Introduces a very commendable proposal to incorporate water use standards in the concept of “beneficial use,” which is also part of the Water Act

Disappointing aspects of the WSA

Makes no measurable improvement over current practice of considering environmental flows, and will not ensure protection of aquatic ecosystems

Keeps the problematic “first in time, first in right” (FITFIR) system and proposes addressing scarcity through use of water markets rather than addressing the root issue of updating the allocation system to formally incorporate the Public Trust Doctrine as a core guiding principle

Makes monitoring and reporting of water use and water quality discretionary

Does not embrace modern governance approaches that share decision making authority with local governments and First Nations; in addition, we understand that this new proposal was adopted in the absence of more serious, government-to-government discussions with First Nations on arrangements for water governance that the “New Relationship” should require

Does not give the public a meaningful role in water decisions

Does not contain legal reforms to proactively adapt to a changing climate