The Water Sustainability Act (WSA) was brought into force in BC on February 29, 2016 along with a number of supporting regulations. The WSA replaces the former Water Act. A water license or use approval under the WSA is required for most uses of water, whether the water is diverted from a stream or an aquifer. However, the WSA does allow some exemptions from this requirement for certain uses of water. AME is actively working with government officials across the province to define exemptions for mineral explorers in BC for this year and also into the future. Further to these collaborative discussions with government, mineral explorers are now exempt from the requirement to obtain a water use permit for 2016.

What’s really happening
Under the former Water Act, use of water for mineral exploration activities, such as diamond drilling, was generally viewed as incidental usage given the low water volumes and, as a result, was exempt from requiring a water permit. Additionally, mineral exploration activities are usually temporary in nature and are typically located in more remote locations, away from areas of human settlement or areas of water use demands. Furthermore, because most mineral exploration activities are short in duration, they do not significantly or adversely impact other water users. The Ministry of Environment is responsible for the WSA, regulations and related policy. The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, through Front Counter BC, will be administrating the WSA.

What action AME is taking
AME reviewed the WSA and immediately raised concerns and suggested potential solutions on behalf of our members to officials with the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM). Since then, AME has been working diligently and collaboratively with many government officials to address our immediate concerns for the upcoming exploration field season.

Further to these collaborative discussions with government, a regulatory amendment came into effect on April 15, 2016, which now provides that holders of a permit under section 10 of the Mines Act are exempt from the requirement to obtain a water use permit for 2016 in relation to exploration activities provided they meet certain conditions and adhere to certain requirements.

MEM has also made a commitment to work with AME over the next year to consider better ways to implement the WSA over the long term. For more information and specific details, please see the BC Government’s April 2016 Update at:

Action that you or your organization can take
To assist AME’s efforts in obtaining an exemption in 2017 and beyond, please reach out to Rick Conte at [email protected] or 604.630.3926 to share your experiences, concerns and recommendations about using water at your mineral exploration sites in BC. As well, you can contact MEM directly and inform them of the impact of the WSA on exploration work programs in the future.
Update as of December 2018: The exemption will be extended through December 31, 2019; a permanent allowance has now been proposed by government, and is under development.