VICTORIA - The provincial government is taking steps to ensure British Columbia’s water resources will be safely and effectively managed for generations. To support B.C.’s modernized water legislation a new fee and rental schedule for users is being introduced.
The new fee and rental rates will only recover the costs of implementing the new Water Sustainability Act (WSA) including, for the first time, groundwater regulation. Unlike surface water, groundwater use has not required permission or payment of fees and rentals. Regulating and charging for groundwater use will correct this imbalance and further government’s ability to sustainably manage water for future generations.
Users of groundwater will require a water licence and will be required to pay water fees and rentals. The exception is that individual household wells throughout the province will not be licensed or charged.
Users of groundwater will also have the same access rights and responsibilities as individuals who obtain their water from surface sources. This includes assurance their rights are considered should any conflict over water uses arise. Groundwater and surface water are one interconnected resource and need to be managed as such. The new WSA allows for this.
This is the first update to the water fee and rental structure since 2006. Across Canada water rental rates vary considerably, for example, up to $70 per 1000m3 in Quebec and over $140 in Nova Scotia for some purposes. B.C.’s new rental rates range from $0.02 to - $2.25 per 1000m3 and will continue to be among the lowest in the country, taking effect in 2016 when the new WSA comes into force.
Highlights of the new rate structure include:
- Homeowners with wells will be exempt from licensing and fees.
- Households supplied by municipal water systems may pay $1 to $2 more per year for their water.
- Surface and groundwater users will pay the same fees.
- Other examples of the new rate structure include:
- The water required to irrigate 40 acres of hay in Kamloops will increase annually from about $90 to $128.
- An Abbotsford farmer with 100 cows will see an annual licence fee change from $25 to $50.
- A Langley 10 acre nursery farm currently paying $44 annually will increase to approximately $62.
- Water bottling will be charged at the industrial rate of $2.25 per 1000m3—the highest rental rate in the new schedule.
Extensive public consultation, including with user groups, helped to determine the new rate structure. In March 2014, the Ministry of Environment released a discussion paper, Pricing B.C.’s Water, which generated over 130 submissions and comments from the public and user groups. A consistent message from British Columbians was that water is undervalued.
Learn more: http://engage.gov.bc.ca/watersustainabilityact
Mary Polak, Minister of Environment -
“British Columbia is blessed with an abundant water supply that our government is committed to preserving for future generations. The new fee structure will ensure fairness and affordability are cornerstones of our modernized water legislation.”
- The new Water Sustainability Act was passed by the Legislature in May, 2014, replacing the current 100 year old Water Act which was not designed to address today’s water issues.
- Domestic household groundwater refers to water that is self-supplied to provide household needs such as a garden and domestic animals. There are an estimated 80,000 homeowner wells in B.C.
A backgrounder follows.
Ministry of Environment
B.C. water pricing review
Government has concluded a comprehensive review of water pricing in B.C. The new rates have been set to recover the costs of administering the new Water Sustainability Act and will come into effect in January 2016 when the new Act is implemented.
Public engagement process:
- Initiated in March 2014, the review was guided by seven water pricing principles and informed by extensive public comment on government’s Pricing B.C.’s Water discussion paper.
The new fees and rentals attempt to strike a balance and are designed to:
- Further simplify and consolidate the fee and rental rate structure;
- Generate sufficient revenue to recover the costs necessary to fully implement the Water Sustainability Act and associated programs;
- Improve fairness and equity by charging fees and rentals for most groundwater uses and assigning the same rates for similar water uses;
- Minimize increases to agriculture and aquaculture to help protect food security;
- Accommodate lower increases for conservation and storage purposes in recognition of their positive ecological and recreational values;
- Limit impacts to B.C.’s business competiveness.
Highlights and Quick facts
- The new rental rates will vary from $0.02/1000m3 for water storage and conservation purposes, to $2.25/1000m3 for most industrial and commercial purposes. 1000 m3 of water is equivalent to one million litres-enough to fill a 25 metre swimming pool.
- Water bottling operations including those supplied by groundwater will be assessed at the highest rate category and will pay the same commercial rate as other consumptive users.
- Most British Columbians are connected to a municipal water system and pay a utility bill to their municipality, which holds the water licence. Households supplied by a municipal water system may see a $1 to $2 increase in their annual water bill.
- Water rentals associated with major hydro-electric power generation projects are linked to B.C.’s energy policy and are not part of this water pricing review.
- Government continues to support the Water Protection Act and the long-standing prohibition on bulk water removals from B.C.
Example fees and rentals
There are two components to water pricing in B.C.: a one-time application fee and an annual rental payment. The application fee is based on the quantity of water applied for and the purpose of the water use.
The annual rental is typically based on the volume of water specified in the licence. For local authorities and water works the rental is based on an estimate of the water actually used.
- The annual rental for a domestic surface water licence will increase from $25 to $50.
- Although some of the changes are significant for users of large volumes of water, about 88% of surface water users would see increases of $100 or less and 77% of non-domestic groundwater users will pay $250 or less.
- Annual minimum water rentals will double except for storage and conservation uses, which will remain at $25.
- Irrigation rates will increase from $0.60/1000m3 with a minimum of $25, to $0.85/1000m3 and a minimum of $50. The water required to irrigate 40 acres of a forage crop in Kamloops will increase from about $90 to $128.
- Households supplied by an individual domestic water licence will see their annual water rental increase from $25 to $50. Households served by an individual domestic well are excluded from paying annual rentals.
The following table shows the current and new 2016 water rental rates for a range of typical users:
Example user: Individual domestic (except groundwater)
Volume (1000m3): 0.7/year
Current Annual Costs ($): 25
Annual Cost ($) effective January 2016: 50
Example user: Small irrigator
Volume (1000m3): 24/year
Current Annual Costs ($):25
Annual Cost ($) effective January 2016: 50
Example user: Large municipality
Volume (1000m3): 23,000/year
Current Annual Costs ($): 25,000
Annual Cost ($) effective January 2016: 52,000
Example user: Natural gas
Volume (1000m3): 800/pad
Current Annual Costs ($): 900
Annual Cost ($) effective January 2016: 1800
Example user: Mining
Volume (1000m3): 1200/year
Current Annual Costs ($): 1300
Annual Cost ($) effective January 2016: 2500
Example user: Water bottling
Volume (1000m3): 200/year
Current Annual Costs ($): 200
Annual Cost ($) effective January 2016: 500
Visit the Water Sustainability Act website for the complete fee and rental schedule and a link to the Water Rent Estimator, where users can generate an estimate of their water fees and rentals under the current and new pricing schedule.
Ministry of Environment