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Water Use in BC: Water Sustainability Act Receives Royal Assent 

by Jeff Christian

Published: June, 2014

Submission: June, 2014


After 115 years under the old regime, the new Water Sustainability Act received Royal Assent on Friday May 20, 2014: an historic occasion to celebrate? Not quite yet, perhaps. The fact is the vast majority of the new statute will not have the force of law until authorized by the Lieutenant Governor in Council at an unspecified future date (section 219).   With new water regulations not expected until the spring of 2015, it seems that the new Act will not be binding until that time. The only substantive provisions of the new Act that are already in force (i) amend the Clean Energy Act by making house-keeping changes to the funding eligibility of power projects pursuant to the First Nations Clean Energy Business Fund (section 145);  and (ii)  expand municipal expropriation powers by amending the Local Government Act (section 176).

Meanwhile, the new statute is garnering some early praise for its default “no-compensation” principle for changes to water use rights under long term licenses.

As previously reported, the new statute will repeal and re-enact core elements of the historic Water Act; extends the water use regime to groundwater; provides for a more comprehensive consideration of environmental issues relating to water use; and allows for the prioritization of certain water uses for environmental, domestic and animal purposes.



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