British Columbia is currently reforming its legal framework for water management. In December 2010, a policy was proposed for the province's new Water Sustainability Act (WSA).
An interesting comparison between:
a) the 2008 Living Water Smart provincial initiative which launched the reform process;
b) the recommendations for reform made in 2009 by NGOs;
c) the 2010 policy proposal,
has been prepared by Randy Christensen, a lawyer with Ecojustice Canada, and Linda Nowlan, Director of Pacific Conservation with WWF-Canada. This comparison provides a great perspective to assess the reform process and evaluate whether the initial objectives are met.
The WWF has submitted comments on the WSA policy proposal that focus on environmental flow protection. The WWF argues the WSA should put environmental flows at the centre of the reformed framework through strong legal protection based on a five step process:
1 - Set a single province wide standard to protect environmental flows;
2 - Require regionally specific broad environmental flows standards to be determined, based on a classification scheme to group rivers and streams of the same type;
3 - Require time-bound plans for the most water-stressed areas that set environmental flow conditions and then require all licences to be subject to maintain those flow conditions;
4 - Require environmental flows to be considered in all new licences;
5 - Require review of licences at periodic intervals to enable response to changing flow conditions.
As the proposal now stands, WWF submits that only the third and fourth actions listed above will occur, leaving most of the province unprotected when it comes to environmental flows.