BC wineries that use groundwater in their operations should be aware that they need to register their water wells before March 1, 2022 … or face potentially disastrous consequences including a potential loss of their water supply (thanks to Al Hudec for reminding on this). The registration requirement is a result of the Water Sustainability Act, which originally became law in 2016. However, the new law\’s time extensions for registration run out in just over 4 months, at which point, those who have not registered could be severely disadvantaged.
The basic structure of the registration system is as follows:
- Non-domestic use of groundwater in BC is now required to be registered and licensed. For example, a winery using water from a well to irrigate its vineyards must register its well and obtain a license in order to keep using that groundwater supply.
- A priority system will be created for water usage which will be based on time of first use and/or registration and which may come into effect in times of shortage or constrained supply. So, for example, if an aquifer\’s water supply was running low, water could be rationed to all users of that supply with priority going to those who established earlier usage (and who had registered that usage).
- Those who used groundwater before March 1, 2016 are categorized as \”Existing Users\”. They can obtain priority for their water usage and can have the registration fee waived if they register before March 1, 2022. If they do not register by that date, they will lose their priority and the use of the water supply becomes illegal.
- Those who used groundwater on or after March 1, 2016 are categorized as \”New Users\”. They should have already registered and obtained a license. If not, the use of the groundwater is illegal.
- Water use amounts may be specified. Water use \”rents\” may become payable retroactive to March 1, 2016.
The failure to register by the deadline could have very significant consequences for a winery or vineyard business:
- A winery or vineyard could lose its priority access to the water supply and \”end up behind\” a newer user of that supply even after registration. In times of shortage or if the supply is already constrained, that could result in the older winery or vineyard getting no water or less water than the newer one.
- Any continued use of the water supply without registration would become illegal and could result in enforcement action.
- The value of the winery or vineyard business could be significantly affected … because a winery or vineyard business that does not have legal water rights will become much less desirable to a buyer.
There is more information on the registration system in this PDF: Licensing Groundwater in BC. Additional information and the application process is here: New Requirements for Groundwater Users. There appears to be a lack of awareness of the upcoming deadlines. See this article for more detail: 15,000 Water Wells Could Be Declared Illegal in 2022.