5.4 Water Allocation Plans
When planning for water allocation, a wide variety of human and ecosystem needs must be identified and balanced. Water allocation planning is an approach to achieving this balance in the future for a specified watershed or for a large water source. For example the Lemieux Creek Water Availability Report - 2004 is a water availability study that is used to some extent as a WAP. It is very important to undertake this type of planning before a watershed approaches its limits of available supply relative to future demands, and before drought or other extreme conditions threaten good relationships between stakeholders.
Water Allocation Plans were first developed on Vancouver Island, as a means to facilitate making water allocation decisions by the Regional Water Manager under the Water Act. WAPs for other regions of the province may follow. See Water Allocation Plans.
Characteristics, Benefits and Applications
The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO) may lead or provide assistance to the WAP planning process. The plan allows for information about the Ministry’s position on water allocation decisions to be made available to future water license applicants and the public. By providing greater clarity, consistency and transparency regarding water allocation decisions, Water Allocation Plans can help avoid or reduce potential conflicts related to future water licence applications.
Water Allocation Plans are considered regional policy, and the MFLNRO uses these plans while exercising its authority (e.g. issuing water licences) under the Water Act. The plans are operational tools developed and used by the Ministry to help determine the quantity of water required in a watershed to protect ecosystem health, and the quantity of water available to be allocated for human use.
Where developed, these plans have improved the efficiency of making water allocation decisions while protecting environmental flows. The plans have also assisted government agencies and water licence applicants as they ensure that their applications and actions align with environmental laws.11
The Shawnigan-Goldstream Water Allocation Plan describes these plans as “a means of anticipating and planning for water uses, identifying water demands and ensuring that water use is compatible with the goals of a sustainable environment.
Advantages of Water Allocation Plans include:
As of March 2011, 23 WAPs have been completed and three water management plans have been developed for watersheds on Vancouver and the Gulf Islands. One water availability study (to inform water allocation decisions) has also been completed for a water source in the Southern Interior. To view a list or to access the plans, visit www.env.gov.bc.ca/wsd/water_rights/wap/index.html.
To date, all Water Allocation Plans have been prepared for surface water resources. As with water use plans, WAPs are unlikely to be applicable to groundwater resources because of the complexity of groundwater resources and because the Water Act does not presently require a licence to withdraw and use subsurface water. Therefore, Water Allocation Plans may be an inappropriate or impractical approach to planning for groundwater resources. However, some of the characteristics and benefits of Water Allocation Plans, such as area-based planning and consideration of future water demand, can be adapted to plan for and manage the allocation of groundwater resources. In addition, groundwater regulation is within the scope of the Water Act Modernization initiative.
Key Elements and Steps
The following are some of the key elements and steps in preparing a Water Allocation Plan:
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