Provincial plans for well water regulation raise concerns

Township mayor says proposed groundwater protection regulations should not force residential well users to pay new fees

Township mayor Jack Froese.

A provincial move to protect groundwater is good in principle, but the details need sorting out to keep Langley residential well owners from facing the same restrictions and paying the same kind of fees commercial operators will.

That is the position the Township of Langley is taking on the new Water Sustainability Act being drafted in Victoria, which is expected to come up for a vote in the legislature this spring.

A letter outlining the Township well water worries has been sent to the Minister of Environment, Langley MLA Mary Polak.

“The Township of Langley is pleased the provincial government is enacting policies to protect groundwater throughout British Columbia, but we want to ensure those measures do not come at the public’s cost,” Mayor Jack Froese said in a written release issued by the Township on Wednesday.

“We would love to see legislation created to protect this vital resource in all areas, but we do have some concerns about the proposed act, especially regarding fees for use.”

The big issues for the Township are proposed rules for groundwater extraction and use, and plans to make local governments and users pay water fees.

The fees should not apply to the municipality for providing water to residents and public use, or to private residential well users, the Langley statement said.

“Municipalities like the Township, who rely heavily on groundwater to supply local residents with drinking water supplies, would be at a disadvantage if required to pay fees for groundwater extraction, causing an increased burden for taxpayers,” Froese wrote in his letter to the minister.

The proposed act does not say exactly how the fee system will work.

“It makes sense to legislate policies to keep our drinking water supply secure for years to come, but we also have to ensure our residents are not subjected to onerous charges for day to day use,” Froese said.

The Township said it wants the meaning of small and large water users, and the difference between commercial and community or public use, clearly defined.

Langley Township is home to 14 watersheds and 18 aquifers.

Township figures show about 80 per cent of residents rely on the municipal water supply. Half of that comes from local groundwater, with the other half from the Greater Vancouver Water District.

The other 20 per cent of residents rely on groundwater from at least 5,000 private wells.

Langley has been working on its own water management plan, the first of its kind in B.C., for several years in collaboration with the province, Froese said.

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