The province of British Columbia (B.C.) has developed a new Water Sustainability Act (WSA) that becomes effective in early 2016, and replaces and modernizes B.C.’s water laws. It regulates groundwater use for the first time and strengthens provincial water management in light of growing demands for water and a changing climate.

According to the B.C. government, the WSA will provide new tools to ensure water stays healthy and secure for future generations. It will allow government to manage surface water and groundwater as one resource, provide water users with greater certainty regarding their water rights, and establish clear rules about managing water during times of scarcity.

In creating the new WSA, key “areas of improvement” were identified to guide policy direction. The B.C. government also is taking a phased approach in developing specific polices and regulations because of the complexity of the new act and the number of proposed regulations.

Pending government review and approval, further new polices related to groundwater licensing, groundwater protection, dam safety, and compliance and enforcement will be incorporated into the new regulations. Once initial regulations are completed, the B.C. government is expected to start work on other regulatory components required to fully implement the new WSA.