Thousands of non-domestic groundwater users woke up this morning, drawing water illegally from their wells.
March 1 marked the deadline for well owners to submit applications for licences to use their wells, guaranteeing their historic water rights, and priority use in the event of restrictions during dry seasons. The province implemented the new regime in 2016, and gave owners three extensions to accommodate what many saw as a complicated and frustrating process.
Now, owners who didn’t apply for a licence – more than 12,000, according to the province – will be drawing water illegally as of today.
But there won’t be any immediate consequences for those owners still trying to complete their applications, the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development told Country Life in BC.
“The government will continue to focus on the importance of regulating this important resource and supporting people in completing their application,” the ministry says. “We are not going to be unreasonable with those who are not in compliance after today’s deadline.”
Instead, the ministry is urging users to complete their applications, noting that a last-minute push over the past four weeks garnered more than 3,000 additional applications from well owners. Based on ministry statistics provided to Country Life in BC, this puts the number of applications at close to 7,700.
“The additional staff and resources we have put in place are helping people to complete their application,” a ministry spokesperson said.
The province originally expected to licence groundwater withdrawals from an estimated 20,000 non-domestic wells.