Groundwater licence fee waiver extended

Non-domestic users of groundwater will now have until Dec. 31, 2017, to apply for a licence without having to pay the application fee

VICTORIA – Non-domestic users of groundwater in British Columbia will now have until Dec. 31, 2017, to apply for a licence without having to pay the one-time application fee. This fee waiver applies to “existing” groundwater users who were using groundwater on or before new licensing requirements came into effect on Feb. 29, 2016.

The deadline has been extended 10 months from the original March 1, 2017, to ensure groundwater users have every opportunity to take advantage of the fee waiver. One-time application fees range between $250 and $10,000, depending on water use purpose and volume.

Under the new Water Sustainability Act (WSA), for the first time those who use groundwater for non-domestic purposes (e.g., irrigation, industrial, municipal waterworks) require a licence and must pay for that water the same as surface water users have. Licensing groundwater provides government with a more complete picture of groundwater use and the ability to better manage the resource.

Licensing also protects the rights of groundwater users giving them greater security. For example licensees will have a right to use water based on their date of first use and their rights will be protected based on the current priority water allocation (First-in-Time-First-in-Right) system. Licenced groundwater users will also have the same access rights and responsibilities as those who obtain water from surface sources.

While the fee waiver period has been extended to the end of 2017, existing groundwater users must apply for a licence by March 1, 2019. Applications for a water licence can be made through FrontCounter BC. Annual water rentals for existing groundwater use will begin to accrue from Feb. 29, 2016, regardless of when a licence application is submitted during the three year transition period.

Domestic well owners – homeowners with a well that provides water for household use, lawn and garden watering, and water for domestic animals – are not required to have a licence or pay fees. However domestic well owners are encouraged to register their well by contacting FrontCounter BC to make their water use known so it can be protected.

The WSA was brought into force on Feb. 29, 2016. The WSA updates and replaces the old Water Act and will regulate groundwater, better protect stream health and has new tools to protect the needs of people and the environment during times of water scarcity.

Through extensive public consultation in developing the new WSA, support was expressed for groundwater regulation and enhanced environmental protection.

“Despite the extension of the fee waiver for existing non-domestic groundwater applications, we are actively encouraging existing groundwater users to get their licence applications in early so their use is known and can be protected” said Mary Polak, Minister of Environment.

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