The deadline for non-domestic groundwater users to apply for a licence with the provincial government, as required by law, is fast approaching.
As a requirement of the Water Sustainability Act, which came into effect Feb. 29, 2016, all non-domestic users of groundwater in B.C. who began using the water prior to the act’s effective date need to be licensed by the province by March 1.
Non-domestic users include home businesses, irrigation, commercial facilities, waterworks or industrial use. Private household use – including lawn and garden watering up to 1/4-acre and water for household animals – do not need to apply for a licence.
Groundwater licensing is a means of ensuring there is a “fair and transparent process in place for determining who uses the water, including during water shortages,” according to the government website.
Literature distributed by the province of B.C. via mail states that non-domestic property owners who miss the March 1 licensing deadline will be deemed unauthorized to use the groundwater and may lose recognition of their historical water use on the property.
This poses a concern for many people in the Cariboo, according to MLA Lorne Doerkson, who said he has been trying to get the word out about the impending deadline for several months.
“I’ve written to the ministry requesting a delay for the deadline and a simplification of the application process,” Doerkson said Tuesday. “But that’s not going to happen – March 1 is the deadline.”
Doerkson said he is concerned about property owners losing their water rights, or “going to the back of the lineup when it comes to rights” if they fail to apply for a licence before the deadline.
He noted the application process – to be done online at groundwater.gov.bc.ca is complicated and his office has fielded several calls from residents who needed help.
At last check, Doerkson said only about 5,000 landowners had signed up out of about 15,000 eligible properties, and he doubts the province will have the full licensing in place by the deadline in less than two weeks.
He’s encouraging Cariboo residents to make sure they apply for their licence before the March 1 deadline – the $250 application fee will be waived for those who apply on time. Domestic users who utilize a well on their property are also encouraged to register their well at no cost.