By Mary Polak
Minister of Environment
VICTORIA - Every year in March, many Canadians take the opportunity to observe Canada Water Week (March 17-23) and World Water Day (March 22). This year, I'm hoping all British Columbians will celebrate the introduction of our new Water Sustainability Act.
The development of the new Water Sustainability Act is a historic achievement for British Columbia. The act will respond to current and future pressures on our fresh water - including groundwater - and position our province as a leader in water stewardship.
The legislation that is now before the provincial legislature will update and replace the existing, century-old Water Act with a modern new act.
The old Water Act is truly a historical document, having been introduced by the government of Premier Richard McBride in 1909. Those were different times with different demands on our water resource. B.C.'s entire population was only 350,000. The Water Act was designed to serve a population that was then about the size of today's capital region. Today, our provincial population is 4.6 million.
One hundred years after the Water Act was created, in 2009, we began engaging widely with British Columbians on modernizing the Water Act. We received thousands of thoughtful comments, ideas and recommendations for improvements to our system of water management from individuals, First Nations organizations and stakeholder groups. We have used this input to create legislation that provides certainty for water users, improves environmental protection, and responds to local and regional needs.
I want to thank these British Columbians for taking the time to contribute their thoughts during the Water Act modernization process.
It has taken a long time to get to this point, but we wanted to make sure we got our new water legislation right, and I believe we have.
As I toured the province last fall, meeting with British Columbians about the Water Sustainability Act legislative proposal, many people told me water pricing is a major concern for them. To that end, we are further engaging with them about our approach to water pricing. Their feedback will help us as we go about setting new water fees and rentals.
People can offer their thoughts about how we should approach pricing water until April 8, 2014, on our blog: http://engage.gov.bc.ca/watersustainabilityact/
The Water Sustainability Act will be brought into effect in spring 2015, once supporting regulations are developed and finalized. The new water fees and rentals will be established before the act takes effect.
The new Water Sustainability Act delivers on government's commitments to modernize B.C.'s water laws, regulate groundwater use and strengthen provincial water management in light of growing demands for water and a changing climate.
Water is our most precious resource and the proposed Water Sustainability Act will ensure that our supply of clean fresh water is sustainable - to meet our needs today and for generations to come.