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You would do well to register soon Growers advised to avoid delay in licencing their groundwater supply.

By Judie Steeves T

he fact that growers using groundwater have three years to comply with new regulations could make them complacent, but there are financial penalties

the longer it’s left to register their wells. While all wells must be registered, for agricultural

producers, wells supplying water for livestock or irrigation must be licenced before Feb. 28, 2019 or they will be in non- compliance and could be shut down, warns Ted van der Gulik of The Partnership for Water Sustainability in B.C., which is working with the government to help implement the new regulations. He notes that in many instances, little has changed in

managing groundwater in the past 50 years, but he comments, “As water supplies are becoming strained and concern about environmental flows are increasing, greater scrutiny on water licence volumes and withdrawal rates is now happening.” The new Water Sustainability Act was passed by the

legislature last year, with one of the biggest changes the institution of groundwater licensing in B.C., but it has taken time to prepare the regulations to back it up. Groundwater licencing came into force in this province as

of Feb. 29, 2016, but users have until Feb. 28, 2019 to apply for a licence. Those producers who apply this year will save the cost of

the application fee, but they must apply before Feb. 28, 2017, and the water rental fee will apply from the day the regulation came into effect, Feb. 28, 2016. In fact, it doesn’t matter when you get the application

submitted, the rental fees will still date from then. However, you can save yourself the application fee if you go

online and register and apply sooner rather than later. And, if you wait until after the deadline, you will lose your priority for rights to water. The First-In-Time, First-In-Right, or FITFIR policy applies to your well drilling date if you apply prior to 2019, based on when your well was drilled. In the event of a drought, loss of water rights will be based

on FITFIR, with the earliest users the last to lose water rights. Wells not licenced before Feb. 28, 2019 would be among the first to be shut down during times of scarcity or drought, warned van der Gulik. Such wells lose their priority, no matter how long ago the well was drilled. Newly-drilled wells will have their priority determined by

the date they were drilled. Domestic wells must be registered but no licence will be

required for domestic water use unless it’s in a designated special area and none have been set up yet. Domestic use means the household use of water for drinking, food preparation and sanitation; fire prevention; water for pets or animals kept for household use; and the irrigation of a thousand square metres of garden that is adjoining an occupied dwelling. Registration and licencing of wells must be conducted

online. You are advised to first obtain a BCEID number, so you can save your progress on the application if you have to leave it for a time.

Before starting the process, get all your papers and British Columbia Berry Grower • Winter 2016-17 13 JUDIE STEEVES Ted Van Der Gulik

information about your well together, including some type of document to submit proving when the well was drilled, so a priority date can be established. If no other documents can be found, an affidavit can be obtained. There is a guide to

help you through the process and there’s a tool the Partnership for Sustainability in B.C. has developed to help determine how much water you should apply for. It’s at www.bcagriculture

To register, go to Front Counter B.C.’s webpage at and click on START a Natural Resource Application, choosing water-ground under the Browse by Topic heading. Information there includes advice on what you need to apply, to help you assemble the documentation you require.

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