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Deadline approaches for B.C. irrigation, commercial water licences

March 1 cutoff means stopping water use, applying as new user
Agriculture depends on irrigation in many parts of B.C., and licences are required for using groundwater sources such as wells for agricultural or industrial use. Farm irrigation in Abbotsford. (B.C. government)

With less than a month to go before irrigation, commercial and industrial groundwater use requires a licence, the B.C. government warns that those who don’t register historic use will lose recognition of their use of wells and dugouts.

The forests and lands ministry has improved the online application process, which requires well location and depth, evidence of when groundwater was first used and a legal description of the property, by March 1. The ministry has also posted a video showing how to prepare the application, including a map of the property.

“Those who miss the deadline will be treated as a new user,” the ministry said in a statement Feb. 2. “Their date of first use will no longer be recognized and the licence may be refused in water-stressed areas. The historical date is crucial because older licences have priority access to water during shortages.

The law does not apply to people who use wells or dugouts for residential purposes, including watering lawns and gardens of a quarter acre or less and fire protection, but the province is encouraging them to register their wells at no cost. As with the farming and industrial licences, the date of use is included in calculations to determine whether new licences can be issued, or when groundwater use is being restricted due to water shortages.

A licence is required for non-domestic groundwater use that began on or before Feb. 29, 2016, the date the B.C. Water Sustainability Act took effect. Municipal and surface water sources are not affected, but dugouts may be considered a groundwater source depending on circumstances.

RELATED: 3 of 4 B.C. groundwater users hadn’t applied by December

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