A bill proposed on March 11 in the Canadian province of British Columbia would regulate and protect groundwater resources for the first time. The Water Sustainability Act would modernize the 1909 Water Act and take effect in the spring of 2015, after supporting regulations are developed and finalized. In addition to creating first-time protections for groundwater resources, the bill also would protect stream health and aquatic environments; consider water in land use decisions; regulate water use in times of scarcity; improve security, water use efficiency, and conservation; measure and report large-scale water use; and provide for a range of governance approaches.
The provincial government expects the proposed legislation to lead to not only better protection of water resources but also increased flexibility and efficiency to meet the needs of water users. The proposed act also would clarify legal access to groundwater for people and businesses. However, there are concerns among some groups because the proposed act allows short-term water use authorizations to be reissued to the same person for the same purpose continually. According to environmental groups, this is common for oil and gas companies conducting hydraulic fracturing. See an overview of the legislation.