Through Living Water Smart, the B.C. government has committed to protect the quality and quantity of groundwater. Regulating groundwater extraction may be an appropriate tool in priority areas and in wells that could negatively impact other water bodies like springs streams, or other wells.
Ground Water Protection Regulation is being developed in three phases by the Ministry of Environment, and sets standards and requirements for:
- Qualifications of well drillers and pump installers who drill wells and install well pumps (phase 1).
- Location, construction, identification, maintenance and closure of wells (phases 1, 2).
- Stopping and controlling flow from artesian wells (phase 2).
- Well testing and reporting requirements (phase 2).
- Storage of hazardous or toxic materials near wells (phase 2).
- Address standards for well operation (phase 3).
- Implementation of water management plans in designated areas (phase 3).
- Requirements relating to aquifer protection, ground water quantity and use (phase 3).
The B.C. government is also working with other agencies and the B.C. Ground Water Association to promote compliance of phase 1 of the Ground Water Protection Regulation by drillers, pump installers and the public.
Through Living Water Smart the provincial government has committed to regulate groundwater use in priority areas and large groundwater withdrawals by 2012, and this is being addressed through the Water Act Modernization project.
B.C.’s government will not regulate groundwater use for single, private domestic wells except in priority areas where there is a Water Management Plan in place. Instead the focus will be on
larger wells, wells for commercial water bottling operations, open-loop water supply wells for geo-exchange purposes, irrigation wells, wells for fish hatcheries, coal-bed methane extraction wells, or larger wells in priority areas.
Priority areas for regulating groundwater removal, because of intensive extraction and water conflicts and shortages, include the Okanagan Basin, Lower Fraser Valley, east coast of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, Nicola Basin, and the Williams Lake area.
The B.C. government also passed legislation establishing a statutory process for community-based, legally binding water management plans to address groundwater extraction, impacts on groundwater quality from land-use activities and water conservation. Lessons learned through the development of the first Water Management Plan by the Township of Langley will to ensure local groundwater resources will be protected and sustainable into the future.
Additional non-regulatory efforts such as technical studies, are vital to give us a better understanding of the groundwater resource to manage and protect it better.