5. Managing Water Supply and Demand
There are many diverse pressures and challenges to consider in water supply and demand planning and management. These include (but are not limited to) population growth, community and economic development, infrastructure and asset management, and the need for environmental stewardship.
It is also becoming increasingly important to consider the impacts of climate change when planning and managing water supply and demand. Climate change is having, and will continue to have, far-reaching implications on all aspects of water management.
In Canada, water allocation and licensing decisions are the responsibility of the provincial government. In BC, these responsibilities are administered by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO), which issues water licences. MFLNRO balances responsible use, community health and safety, maintaining terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and other priorities.
Once water licences are issued, the management of water supply and demand becomes largely the responsibility of those that hold the licenses including local governments, First Nations, and other community-scale water suppliers. These groups develop and manage community water supplies as well as treatment and distribution systems. Local and First Nations governments also have roles in developing and implementing various water-related plans and programs. These include strategies to conserve water and manage demand and also to mitigate the impacts of drought. Local governments, First Nations and other water suppliers also participate in, or lead, multi-sector water and watershed planning initiatives. We all use water, so as citizens, farmers, ranchers and countless other businesses and industries that use water, we all share in the responsibilities to manage our water use.
Types of Water Supply & Demand Plans
This section of the guide profiles 4 specific types of plans:
Why Plan for Water Supply and Demand?
There are many pressures on watershed that are placing – and will continue to place – pressures on water supply and demand. Common pressures throughout BC include population growth, land use practices, community and economic development, climate change and other changes in ecosystems (such as the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation). Therefore the extent of existing water use requirements and the hydrological characteristics of watersheds are important considerations in managing supply and demand.
BC communities are adopting a wide range of strategies to manage water. Water planning processes can help communities understand challenges by improving knowledge about water supplies and demands including sharing the allocation of water across various human activities and also ensuring that environmental needs (i.e. instream flows) are also met. For a comparison of three water management techniques (supply side, demand management, and the “soft path” approach) see the 2005 POLIS publication At a Watershed1. These approaches can be especially helpful in managing community conflicts during times of water shortages and drought. The process of water management planning also serves to increase awareness in a community, and stakeholders will be more likely to promote responsible water management practices in their homes, businesses and neighbourhoods.
Water supply, demand and allocation management are primarily about balancing water use. These include human water uses for domestic, agricultural, hydroelectrical, commercial and industrial consumption, as well as natural system water uses to support healthy ecosystems, particularly fish and fish habitat. Good water management can allow for human use without compromising the environment. Desired outcomes of water planning may include:
Challenges and Pressures
Water supply is a significant issue in many communities in BC and around the world. Water supply is particularly important in regions where supplies may be limited, storage capacity is limited, and/or water demand is nearing or exceeding water supply. The characteristics of water supply and demand are community specific, and depend on many factors. The following are a few examples of topics and factors to illustrate the range of water supply and demand challenges experienced in communities across BC.
Total and Seasonal Population Growth
Surface and Groundwater Interactions
Aging and Inadequate Infrastructure
Back to top
READ MORE ABOUT:
MANAGING WATER SUPPLY AND DEMAND