Ten years have passed since British Columbia released the Living Water Smart plan, a visionary provincial strategy that outlines 45 commitments to improve freshwater management in B.C. While there has been notable headway on implementation, new research from the POLIS Water Sustainability Project, based at the University of Victoria’s Centre for Global Studies, reveals that nearly one-third of Living Water Smart commitments have seen minimal progress to date.
The new report, Taking the Pulse: B.C. Freshwater Policy Monitor, evaluates provincial government promises over the past decade as they relate to sustaining fresh water.
“Although Living Water Smart is 10 years old, its core vision of sustainability and many of its specific commitments are still as relevant today as they were then,” says report co-author Oliver M. Brandes, associate director at the University of Victoria’s Centre for Global Studies. “A key component in governance is accountability, and it’s important to check in and see how B.C. is doing at implementing its freshwater commitments. We have supported government’s efforts and also want to help hold government accountable, provide communities with an up-to-date snapshot of progress, and establish clear direction for future priorities.”
The research shows that significant strides have been made in some areas. However, many important commitments have not seen substantial—or in some cases any—follow-through:
- 18% have been achieved. Of particular note, the Province has advanced critical commitments around legislative and regulatory reform, including passing a new B.C. Water Sustainability Act in 2016.
- 24% can be considered in progress.
- 31% have seen minimal progress and require urgent attention. For example, the commitment to do regular assessments on B.C. waters was never acted upon; drinking water sources are no better protected provincewide than they were a decade ago (although some regional initiatives, such as the Hullcar aquifer, are underway).
- 27% cannot be assessed due to lack of information or the commitments are no longer relevant.
“While we applaud the successes, there is still a lot of work to be done,” says report co-author Rosie Simms, researcher at the POLIS Water Sustainability Project. “The report lays out three key actions to set B.C. on course towards greater water security.”
Priority government action must include:
- Redoubled efforts to complete the implementation of the Water Sustainability Act, with Indigenous co-leadership.
- Gathering and providing adequate financial and staffing resources to implement the range of innovate tools desperately needed to protect fresh water.
- Developing a rigorous provincial strategy for oversight and water monitoring, data, and compliance and enforcement.
“British Columbia has a real opportunity to implement a revitalized strategy that could incorporate the current government’s core mandate commitments to reconciliation, salmon, and healthy rural economies, and create the resilient and sustainable water future envisioned a decade ago in Living Water Smart,” said Simms.
Rosie Simms, Project Manager and Researcher, POLIS Water Sustainability Project, [email protected] or 250-721-8189