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B.C. seeks public input on new watershed protection strategy

Groundwater licence program has March 1 deadline
The B.C. environment ministry is developing a watershed security strategy to protect wetlands. (B.C. government photo)

The B.C. government is moving ahead with a watershed security strategy to fund protection of wetlands that help protect against flooding, forest fires, drought and effects of climate shifts.

Environment Minister George Heyman announced the project Tuesday, with a call for public input that is open until March 18 and a discussion paper that looks at ways to “reset the water supply and demand relationship” in B.C. Heyman wants to have a strategy to take to cabinet for approval by the end of 2022.

It’s the next step in implementing B.C’s Water Sustainability Act, passed in 2016. The water security strategy was launched Jan. 25 as the deadline of March 1 approaches for farmers and other commercial groundwater users to apply for licences. Domestic well users don’t require a licence, but are being asked to register their wells so the province has an inventory of groundwater demand as it considers new commercial licence applications.

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Ducks Unlimited Canada has been active in wetland protection since 1968, as a private charity supported by hunters and conservationists. Sarah Nathan, Ducks Unlimited’s B.C. operations manager, said the extreme weather events of 2021 show the need for further effort to protect wetlands that moderate flooding and drought.

Nathan said 85 per cent of B.C.’s urban wetlands have been lost through development of farmland or other uses. Ducks Unlimited has more than 600 preservation projects in B.C., including collaborations with ranchers in the Cariboo for wetlands that store water for irrigation and stock watering as well as wildlife.

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