Watershed Security Agenda for British Columbia

Setting direction for the next mandate

Published On: November 30th, 2020

As B.C.’s new government begins the hard work of setting the path forward for the province—amidst a global pandemic and unprecedented uncertainty and instability—the POLIS team has developed a comprehensive Watershed Security Agenda to provide direction and support to the provincial government’s critical platform commitments to protect clean water, develop a watershed security strategy and fund, and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) and the B.C. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA).

The Watershed Security Agenda sets out immediate actions for the provincial government to initiate in its first 100 days, as well as strategic foundational reforms that build on efforts already underway to create a lasting legacy of watershed security. It draws on over a decade of POLIS work exploring provincial opportunities for watershed management, law, policy, and governance reform—as well as recommendations from the spectrum of water leaders, Indigenous organizations, and independent experts and bodies.

“As B.C. transitions to post-acute crisis recovery, watershed security will not be optional or simply ‘nice to have,'” said Rosie Simms, Research Lead at the POLIS Water Sustainability Project. “Healthy, functioning watersheds and water security are the basis of protecting public health and drinking water, safeguarding wild salmon, strengthening vibrant local economies, building prosperous and resilient communities, accommodating a changing climate, and advancing reconciliation with Indigenous nations.”

In the new brief, the POLIS team identifies five key actions to kickstart the Watershed Security Agenda in B.C. and set a trajectory for success:

  • Create a Watershed Security Fund to ensure dedicated funding to build on the initial stimulus investments for long-term watershed and community security.
  • Advance reconciliation and implement UNDRIP by integrating water into land use planning initiatives, supporting watershed pilots already underway, enabling better local watershed decisions, and immediately applying a co-governance and shared authority lens to watershed decision-making and implementation of B.C.’s Water Sustainability Act.
  • Protect drinking water sources by implementing the powerful recommendations from the Auditor General of British Columbia and recent Hullcar aquifer review, including improving the ability to trigger legislated plans and other source water protection tools under the Drinking Water Protection Act or Water Sustainability Act.
  • Invest in climate adaptation and resilience to floods and droughts, including updating the B.C. Drought Response Plan and accelerating groundwater licensing in hot spot regions.
  • Appoint a Provincial Watershed Security Officer who is accountable for planning, implementing, and overseeing a watershed security regime, breaking down government silos, and empowered to unite and coordinate provincial action on water as a priority.

“Beyond these urgent and immediate actions, the Watershed Security Agenda orients towards building on and completing the necessary policy, governance, and law reform work that the provincial government already has underway,” said Oliver M. Brandes, Project Lead at the POLIS Water Sustainability Project. “This includes fully implementing the Water Sustainability Act and reforming it in line with UNDRIP and DRIPA, developing a provincial science and knowledge strategy, and improving oversight and accountability.”

The Watershed Security Agenda offers an ambitious vision and stepwise practical actions to set the foundation for a secure and prosperous future in our province. POLIS and partners will continue to support communities and any effort to make this future reality.

Download brief.

Download summary.