Water Objectives Innovation Brief

Unfulfilled promise, potential, and new opportunities

Published On: May 25th, 2022

Published by POLIS and Northern Confluence, a new Water Objectives Innovation Brief summarizes the current state of understanding about Water Sustainability Act (WSA) Water Objectives and outlines critical next steps to advance their development and implementation.


The brief draws on key learnings and discussions from a series of Water Objectives “Learning and Doing” workshops that were held with regional leaders throughout 2021.

“When Water Objectives were introduced in the WSA in 2016, they were broadly welcomed as a promising tool to advance water sustainability. They offer many potential benefits, but progress on implementation has been limited,” said Rosie Simms, Research Lead at the POLIS Water Sustainability Project and co-author of the brief. “We hope this brief will drive a deeper discussion, as well as application of Water Objectives to address the pressing issues communities are facing.”

In the brief, the authors present ideas about how the provincial government and Indigenous leaders and communities might think about Water Objective development and implementation—whether as part of a government-to-government land use plan, an Indigenous-led watershed plan, or as a standalone approach to address a specific concern.

“Workshop discussions revealed that there is a significant desire to move forward with Water Objectives to improve watershed security and to advance better co-governance and opportunities for local decision-making,” said Nikki Skuce, Director of Northern Confluence and co-author. “A few uncertainties persist, which are revealed in the brief, but these shouldn’t prevent pathways forward for setting Water Objectives.”

With a new B.C. Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship, and commitments by the provincial government to develop water sustainability and land use plans and to set objectives, new opportunities exist to accelerate meaningful Water Objective implementation on the ground—and in the water.

“This brief serves a dual purpose. It is a resource to directly help communities advance their local watershed priorities and sustainability. And it can catalyze action by the provincial government, who have been largely absent in implementing the WSA, and thus supporting proactive watershed security and resilience in communities,” said Oliver M. Brandes, Co-Director of the POLIS Project and co-author.

Those critical next steps for the provincial government are:

  1. Be bold and set some initial Water Objectives.
  2. Clarify government’s approach and intent.
  3. Strengthen linkages between policy staff developing frameworks and those in the regions supporting implementation and doing the work.
  4. Develop clear and practical guidance on best practice for how to meet specified Water Objectives.



Laura Brandes
Communications Director, POLIS Water Sustainability Project
[email protected]