Groundwater Licensing: March Deadline

Tony Gregson


Groundwater licensing for commercial purposes is about to take hold with a bite. March 1st is the deadline for groundwater licensing applications for commercial purposes. If you have an application in the works by deadline, you may go on using the water until a decision is made on the application. If you have not applied by deadline, you must stop using the water until a decision is made.

To encourage users to apply, Wells and Groundwater Licensing in the Islands Trust Area was a two-hour zoom seminar (zoominar?) held on February 3rd. The presentation was hosted by William Shulba, Islands Trust Senior Freshwater Specialist together with two BC government program managers, Julia Berardinucci, Water Strategies and Conservation (Environment & Climate Change), and Cali Melnechenko, Water Authorization Head (FLNRO). Apart from an initial explanation of the policy and various application scenarios, the great value of this presentation lay in the wide-ranging questions submitted by the public, which took up most of the time. Now with five years of experience since the Water Sustainability Act was introduced in February 2016, almost all questions could be clearly answered.

Many questions were of a fairly technical or legal nature. There were some questions that struck me as broadly relevant to Hornby and Denman:

  • Does a rental cabin require a license?
  • Does a home business require a license?
  • Does a B&B require a license?
  • Do I require a licence if my garden exceeds the maximum 1000 sq metres, even though I am just growing flowers for home use?
  • Can the license take into account recycled water (for example, greywater) that is returned to the ground?
  • Can the license take into account rainwater catchment?
  • Do I require a license if I use the water for animals that I may sell only on occasion (for example, sheep or cattle)?
  • Can a well be licensed to serve more than one property?
  • Does the groundwater license still apply if a property is sold?

Groundwater licensing is gradually working its way into the system. Surface and groundwater rights are now included in real estate disclosure.

In cases of uncertainty, it was advised to apply regardless, on a just-in-case basis. The government is apparently prepared for a last-minute deluge and has bulked up on information resources.

Even though the March 1st deadline applies to commercial use of groundwater only, the presentation has a lot of value for domestic users because they are a part of the total groundwater supply in any given area. While domestic users prior to 2016 are not required to register their wells, information on your well contributes to our knowledge of groundwater availability. It may also become important where it is affected by development of other wells. It was also interesting to learn that in the event of a declaration of a drought emergency, domestic users would not be required to curtail or cease use of their water. That is because they are automatically allocated a given amount of the total groundwater budget as a deemed right under legislation.

As Bernadinucci pointed out, British Columbia is a huge and complex water management environment. The licensing regime needs considerably more experience before the program can be fully evolved, to the point, for instance, where regulations for ground water monitoring could be applied province-wide.

To apply:

  1. Register for a BCeID (; allows you to being your application and edit it later, if needed.
  2. Fill in the required information as best you can (details can be worked out later).
  3. Allow for about 2 hours to complete your application online; apply early to avoid technical issues.
  4. For application form, required information, fees, links and tips

Call FrontCounterBC for assistance 1-877-855-3222

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