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SOURCE WATER PROTECTION FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA'S COMMUNITY WATERSHEDS: AN EVOLVING MODEL

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With 86% of the population of British Columbia (BC) dependent on surface water supplies for drinking water, effective management and protection of the watersheds that provide this water to communities – community watersheds – has been a subject of focused government concern and active public debate. Most of these community watersheds are located on provincially owned land (Crown land). As government policy for Crown lands calls for integrated resource management numerous legally tenured and untenured activities, such as forestry, range use, mineral exploration, and recreation must be carefully managed to protect community watersheds from potential impacts on water quality and quantity. The Provincial Government implemented voluntary guidelines for the management of Crown lands used for community water supplies in 1980 and enabled a process referred to as Integrated Watershed Management Planning. With the enactment of the Forest Practices Code of BC Act (the Code) in 1995, many community watersheds were afforded a level of legislated protection through requirements for higher forestry standards. The Code also provided a new array of forest planning tools from high level strategic plans to site specific operational plans which could be applied to address a wide range of forest resources, including water. In 1999, the BC Auditor General published the results of an audit assessing the effectiveness of provincial programs in protecting drinking water sources. The Auditor concluded that although the major drinking water sources examined provide good water quality and required minimal treatment almost all face risks from human activities that are not adequately managed and offered 26 recommendations to improve program effectiveness. A multi-agency Directors Committee was tasked with co-ordinating government actions to address these recommendations. The tools and policies to protect community water supplies continue to evolve in BC. The key challenges to address in the future are to clarify opportunities for purveyors to influence land use decisions, develop a long term strategy to apply watershed-based planning approaches to protecting drinking water sources, and to ensure effective monitoring and auditing of statutory requirements.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2000-01-01

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