Water is life. We use water to grow our food, support industry, and of course, to drink. Water comes from the natural environment (where else?) in the form of lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands and groundwater reservoirs. These water ecosystems also provide food (like fish!), transport routes, recreation, culture and spiritual fulfillment. Keeping water ecosystems healthy ensures these vital services are maintained.
In the province of British Columbia the withdrawal of water, one of our greatest potential impacts on water ecosystems, is controlled by the provincial Water Act. The government of B.C. is planning to update the Water Act and claims that improving water ecosystem protection is one of the priorities. Currently, the Water Act is focused on managing a wide range of water licences, which allow licence holders to remove water for domestic or industrial use. Although the Water Act allows the province to restrict water use to protect water ecosystems there is nothing that actually ensures water is left in streams — fish, and other water life, have no right to water and water can be taken from a stream or river essentially until it runs dry.
The David Suzuki Foundation, along with other non-governmental groups, are providing input on the reforms that would make the Water Act much more effective at what it needs to do: protect water ecosystems. There's a wide range of input we are providing, but there are three key changes needed to ensure fish have a right to water too and that water is left in our streams and rivers:
1. Establish, regulate and enforce ecosystem-based instream flow standards for all streams in all watersheds of British Columbia.
2. Transition to a priority of use water allocation system, including the withdrawal and restructuring of existing water licences to ensure minimum ecosystem flow standards are protected and priority of use can be implemented.
3. Provide regional support for integrated watershed management and shared water governance.
For more background on these key reforms you can check out the briefing note we submitted to the government. You can also check out submissions from some of our partner organizations, including Watershed Watch Salmon Society
and the Pembina Institute.
In the coming weeks we'll need your help in letting B.C. politicians know that improving the protection of water ecosystems is important and that key Water Act reforms are supported by British Columbians. Stay tuned!