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Well licensing deadline extended [David Schmidt]

VICTORIA – Due to an underwhelming response by users to register their wells, the province has extended its waiver of the application fee to December 31, 2017.

The new Water Sustainability Act took effect February 29, 2016 and includes licensing requirements for all non-domestic groundwater users. As a result, all wells used for irrigation and livestock watering must be registered.

Users will also be charged for water usage as of March 1, 2016, regardless of when a well is registered.

Wells registered before March 1, 2019 will have their FITFIR (first-in-time, first-in-right) rights protected. Water usage rights will be based on the date of first use of the well, a key consideration during a water shortage/ drought. Registrations after that date will be treated as new wells and their FITFIR rights will be based on the registration date.

The BC Ministry of Environment (MoE) estimates the registration and licencing requirements apply to about 20,000 wells in the province.

As a carrot to encourage producers to register those wells, the province agreed to waive its one-time $250 application fee until March 1, 2017.

Although MoE staff have spent the past year explaining the new licencing requirements at commodity meetings around the province and conducted numerous workshops to assist producers in registering their wells, few have taken up the offer.

As of the first week of January, the MoE had received only about 500 existing groundwater licence applications and about 50 new groundwater licence applications.

An informal poll at the Mainland Milk Producers confirmed the lack of interest. About a third of the meeting attendees indicated they had wells on their farms but none had yet registered them.

The government has therefore extended the application fee waiver to December 31 to encourage more users to register their wells.

“We have been working with different groups and listening to them and one thing they asked for is a date that’s easy to remember,” says MoE water strategies and conservation manager Ted White.

The government expects most users to register their wells online through []. The ministry has also posted a detailed application guide to walk producers through the registration process. However, at 69 pages, the guide can seem overwhelming. To make it easier, BC Cattlemen’s Association water sub-committee chair Linda Allison condensed the information into an easy-to-read eight-page guide based on her experience registering her own well. The guide is available from the BCCA office in Kamloops.

Producers not willing to go it alone can complete the registration at a number of FrontCounter BC office locations in the province. MoE staff encourage anyone interested in going that route book time with staff and determine what information they should bring with them to start the application.

Not simple

“This is not a simple process. It is being simplified but there is still room for improvement,” says BC Agriculture Council executive director Reg Ens.

Meanwhile, the MoE continues to refine the definition of a well and is working with industry to develop workable polices and regulations regarding livestock watering and creating dedicated water reserves for agriculture.

CLBC March 2017

Vol.103 Issue 1

CLBC February 2017