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Province launches Water Smart plan to conserve

Water use not sustainable with projected growth



British Columbians won’t be able to take their water for granted much longer as the B.C. government is preparing to tighten the faucet in anticipation of future shortages.

Last month Environment Minister Barry Penner announced the creation of Living Water Smart, a water plan that includes more than 40 actions and targets to reduce water usage in a variety of sectors.

“Living Water Smart: British Columbia’s Water Plan lays out the vision and steps needed to protect our rivers, lakes, streams and watersheds,” said Penner. “This plan will make B.C. a leader in water stewardship, fits with our overarching strategy to protect the environment, and positions us for continued success in the 21 st century.”

According to the release, B.C.’s population is expected to grow by another 1.4 million people in the next 25 years and the current rate of water use is not sustainable for the long term. Several areas of the province, notably the Okanagan and Gulf Islands, are already experiencing regular water shortages.

The plan has already been well-received and has the support of the B.C. Agriculture Council, the Urban Development Institute, and B.C. Real Estate Association.

Some of the action items include:

• Setting minimum flow requirements in legislation for ecosystems and species.

• Require all users to cut back on water use in times of drought or when stream health is at risk.

• Limit new water licenses to 40 years where there is a high demand and pressure on water.

• Regulate groundwater use in priority areas and large groundwater withdrawals.

• Support watershed management planning in priority areas.

• Require all large water users to measure and report their water use.

• Require more efficient water use in the agriculture sector and secure access to water for agricultural lands.

• Address the changing water drought risk and other effects of climate change.

• Report on the state of water every five years.

• Require all students in B.C. to complete at least one stream-health assessment.

• Mandate purple pipes for water collection and reuse by 2010.

• Require water conserving plumbing fixtures such as low flush toilets and establish a water efficiency labeling system for water consuming products.

The full list is over two pages long.

The recommendations fall short of implementing water metering for residences and businesses, although new homes in Whistler and elsewhere in the province are being outfitted with meters, and water metering may be a requirement in the future.

As well, the province released a list of water saving tips for the public.

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