Fraser Basin Council


9.2 Glossary of Terms

The following terms have been excerpted primarily from the Okanagan Sustainable Water Strategy and the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007i, as well as other literature.

Adaptation Adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities. Anticipatory adaptation: adaptation that takes place before impacts of climate change are observed. Also referred to as proactive adaptation. Planned adaptation: adaptation that is the result of a deliberate policy decision, based on an awareness that conditions have changed or are about to change and that action is required to return to, maintain, or achieve a desired state.
Aquifer A natural underground layer of porous, water-bearing materials (sand, gravel) usually capable of yielding a large amount or supply of water.
Basin A biophysical region or catchment drained by a single river system.
Climate In a narrow sense, is usually defined as the “average weather”, or more rigorously, as the mean and variability of properties such as temperature, precipitation, and wind over a period of time ranging from months to thousands or millions of years.
Climate Change A change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g., by using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. Climate change may be due to natural internal processes or external pressures, or to persistent anthropogenic changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land use. 
Climate Change Impacts  The effects of climate change on natural and human systems. Potential impacts: all impacts that may occur given a projected change in climate, without considering adaptation. Residual impacts: the impacts of climate change that would occur after adaptation.
Climate Scenario A plausible and often simplified representation of the future climate, based on a consistent set of climatological relationships that has been constructed to investigate the potential consequences of anthropogenic climate change, and which often serves as input to impact models. A climate change scenario is the difference between a climate scenario and the current climate.
(Climate) Vulnerability The degree to which a system is susceptible to, and unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. Vulnerability is a function of the character, magnitude and rate of climate change and variation to which a system is exposed, and the system’s sensitivity and adaptive capacity.
Community Resiliency The ability and capacity of a community to survive, adjust, adapt and recover from changing processes or circumstances, such as a drought, flood or boil water advisory.
Comprehensive Source to Tap Drinking Water Assessment A structured and consistent approach to identifying, evaluating and managing risks to drinking water. Initiated by the Drinking Water Officer under Part 3 of the Drinking Water Protection Act.
Consumptive Use Water that is removed from available supplies without direct return to a water resource system and which is used for purposes such as manufacturing, agriculture, and food preparation.
Contaminant Any physical, chemical, biological or radiological substance or matter that has an adverse effect on air, water, or soil. 
Design with Nature An approach to planning that is founded on the principle that the human and natural worlds are inextricably linked. It maintains that planning and design of the land for human use needs to be based on an understanding of natural process.
Drinking Water Water that has been treated to provincial standards and is fit for human consumption.
Drinking Water Protection Plan A long-range land use plan for watershed(s) that takes into account water quality and quantity issues. Designated by the Minister of Health under Part 5 of the Drinking Water Protection Act and approved by the Lieutenant Governor in Council.
Drought Management Plan  A community specific plan that designates trigger conditions for different drought stages and regulatory responses that may be imposed at each stage.
Ecosystem A dynamic complex of plant, animal, fungal and microorganism communities and the associated non-living environment, which functions as an ecological unit.
Ecosystem Services The processes and conditions by which natural ecosystems sustain and fulfill human life. Services such as the provision of clean air, water cycling and purification, nutrient cycling, soil formation, biomass production, waste disposal, crop pollination, provision of food and minerals, and the maintenance of genetic diversity result from functioning ecosystems.
Environmental Flow The amount of water required in a stream to meet certain objectives such as the protection of fish, wildlife, or other biological values. Environmental flows are also maintained for recreation, navigation and dilution of permitted discharges such as effluent. Environmental flows are set and used differently across the province. 
First-in-Time, First-in-Right The principle used to prioritize water rights in British Columbia. This principle means that water rights are prioritized according to how senior the licence is, regardless of its use. The older the licence, the higher the user is on the priority list.
Fish Habitat The areas in and around a stream, such as spawning grounds and nursery, rearing, food supply and migration areas, on which fish depend directly or indirectly in order to carry out their life processes.
Governance The process of decision-making—who decides and is accountable for the decision, what parameters of the decision are, and how decisions are made. Included in the concept of governance are the institutions, practices and laws through which society makes those decisions and ultimately takes action. 
Green Infrastructure A concept that emphasizes the importance of the natural environment in decisions about land use planning. In the context of water and watersheds, green infrastructure is being used to mimic natural functions in more developed, urbanized watersheds. For example, the installation of permeable pavements, rain gardens, bioretention ponds and constructed wetlands help reduce the volume of runoff that enters sewer systems and increase absorption. In some contexts, green infrastructure can also refer to other infrastructure, such as water and wastewater facilities.
Groundwater All subsurface water, generally occupying the pores and crevices of rock and soil. Groundwater originates from rainfall or snowmelt that penetrates the layer of soil just below the surface.
Habitat The natural home of living organisms. The three components of wildlife habitat are food, shelter and water.
Improvement District Either the public corporate body or the tract of land incorporated under the Local Government Act and which includes an improvement district constituted under a former Act.
No Regrets Policy A policy or planning measure that generates net social and/or economic benefits irrespective of whether or not climate change occurs.
Recharge Process by which rainwater (precipitation) seeps into the groundwater system.
Recharge Area Generally, an area that is connected with underground aquifer(s) by a highly porous soil or rock layer. Water entering a recharge area may travel for miles underground.
Riparian Area The area along streams, lakes and wetlands where water and land interact. These areas support plants and animals, and protect aquatic ecosystems by filtering out sediments and nutrients that originate from upland reservoirs.
Runoff Water that moves over the surface of the ground. Runoff collects sediment and contaminants as it moves from higher elevations to lower elevations.
Soft Path Approach A holistic approach to water management that seeks to move beyond demand management to planning for sustainability.
Source Water Source water includes surface waters, aquifers or groundwater recharge areas.
Stormwater Runoff from from any area where infiltration rates can not accommodate rainfall rates.
Stream  Natural watercourse or source of water supply, whether it usually contains water or not.
Stream Health The combined measure of a stream’s ecological integrity and function. This includes low flow variability between seasons, the ability of the stream to provide environmental services, water quality, and the stream’s resilience to disturbance. Stream health can be measured using water chemistry, biological monitoring and stream flow information. 
Surface Water All bodies of water on the surface of the earth. Streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, or oceans are examples of surface water.
Wastewater The used water and solids from a community (including used water from industrial processes) that flow to a treatment plant. Stormwater, surface water and groundwater infiltration may also be included in the wastewater that enters a wastewater treatment plant. The term sewage usually refers to household wastes, but it is being replaced by the term wastewater.
Water Allocation The diversion of water from surface or groundwater sources for distribution or allotment to a specific purpose.
Water Budget A summation of inputs, outputs and net changes to a particular water resource system over a fixed period.
Water Centric Planning Planning with a view to water, on any scale.
Water Conservation Improved water management practices that reduce or enhance the beneficial use of water.
Water Efficiency A tool of water conservation that focuses on reducing waste but not necessarily restricting use, and emphasizes the influence consumers can have by making small behavioural changes.
Water Governance Includes the laws and regulations and agencies and institutions that are responsible for decision making, and the policies and procedures that are used to make decisions and manage water resources. Governance also includes the way that science, information, community and traditional knowledge inform laws, policies and decisions. 
Water Licence The authority to divert and use surface water in accordance with the statutory requirements of the Water Act and the Water Protection Act.
Water Management Plan  A comprehensive and integrated watershed regulatory planning tool under Part 4 of the Water Act. Intended to be a basis for provincial regulation on surface and groundwater quality, instream flow requirements and water supply, among other issues.
Water Metering The process of measuring water use. Metering is considered by some to be a key step for any water service provider interested in improving its pricing structure.
Watershed The biophysical region or area of land that drains into a stream, river system, or other body of water. Watersheds are divided by mountains or hill ridges, and can be considered at different scales from basin scale (made up of small watersheds that drain into a large river) to a watershed scale with drainage to one stream or lake. Everyone lives and works in a watershed.
Watershed Governance Water governance at the watershed scale covering the full range of watershed issues: water resources and delivery of water services, and the protection and conservation of water and aquatic ecosystems, including their associated riparian area, and land use issues that impact water.
Watershed Management Seeks to ensure the wise and effective use of water resources, particularly the quantity and quality of water released.
Watershed Planning Planning for the competing interests and goals that may be present in one watershed. It provides a means by which decisions are coordinated among responsible government and private agencies and by which land use and resource management conflicts and issues are resolved.
Water Supply System The collection, treatment, storage and distribution of potable water from source to consumer.
Water Use Plan  Formal, though voluntary and non-binding, agreement for how water will be shared between licensees while providing for adequate flows for fish and wildlife.
Well Protection Plan Developed by water purveyors to determine protective measures to manage activities in the capture zone (or recharge area) to reduce the risk of contaminating the well supply.
Wetlands Permanently or intermittently wet areas, shallow water and land water margins that support plants and animals that are adapted to wet conditions.

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This website is a guide to help BC communities learn more about planning for local watersheds and water resources, navigate current planning processes, consider relevant issues and challenges — including regional climate change impacts —  and build capacity to develop and implement plans.


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