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Detailed Plan

Our wealth is in our water. CodeBlue has a plan to secure it. 

British Columbia’s watersheds are the source of our health, well-being and natural wealth. They are the envy of the world. For thousands of years, First Nations have been stewards of our water wealth, the source of their rights and title and a relationship that we have all benefited from.

Rich and abundant watersheds have brought life, health, and prosperity in every corner of our province since time immemorial. Streams, rivers, and lakes are the cornerstone of our local economies, forests, fish and wildlife, food, quality of life, cultural memories, and survival itself. 

But today our most precious resource is facing bigger threats than ever before. Decades of big industry abuses on the land and in the water, like rampant clearcutting and toxic mine tailings, poor water management, and a warming climate are taking their toll. Contaminated drinking water, wells running dry, farmers losing crops, creeks filled with dying fish, communities devastated by flood waters—the impacts to our material security are getting more severe year by year.

In an increasingly insecure and chaotic world, we need to act now to make our province a stronghold where clean water and vibrant communities thrive. It’s time to defend our watershed as if our lives depend on them. 

Local BC communities know their home watersheds best and have already identified the solutions that will secure fresh water today and for future generations. But local people face major barriers in doing this important work because government has not been doing ITS job to defend our watersheds. It’s time for that to change.

1.  Give local people the power to manage and restore their watersheds

HOW: Establish Local Watershed Boards where local communities have the power and resources to address threats to their watershed security with real solutions. 



Important decisions about our local water sources should be made by the people most directly affected and who know their watersheds the best.  These are the people who live in local communities, including local First Nations who have millennia of stewardship knowledge and experience, not far away bureaucrats or private industry. There are too many examples in BC where critical community water sources are threatened and degraded by industrial activities that get approved by people without any stake in the local watershed. 

  • Top-down approach with limited provincial resources and staff leaves huge holes in watershed security. A much better way to manage water—recognized globally as the best practice—is to engage and support local knowledge and expertise to manage water at the watershed scale. Many regions in Canada and beyond already take this watershed -based approach, such as Ontario’s Conservation Authorities that have been around since the 1960s.

  • A one-off approach to watershed governance. BC has some emerging models of new approaches to watershed governance, such as the partnership formed between the provincial government and five First Nations in the Nicola River Watershed, the Okanagan Basin Water Board, and the Cowichan Watershed Board (see box). However, these are isolated examples in a large province. All regions of BC deserve to benefit from this better approach to water management.

  • The Water Sustainability Act has provisions allowing communities to play a more active role in watershed management and have a greater say in decisions affecting their watersheds. NONE of these provisions have yet been implemented by the Province.

  • Rural economies historically dependent on resource extraction are suffering from closures and downturns, with insufficient attention on transitioning jobs and opportunities in sectors like clean technology and the blue economy. 


We need local watershed boards in every watershed in the province that are driving tailored plans and solutions, guiding and deciding what activities are permissible in their watersheds, expanding science and knowledge, and building common understanding between neighbours and different watershed interests. This does NOT mean offloading government responsibilities to local people. Government needs to do its part to enable Local Watershed Boards by: 

  • providing sustainable resources 
  • implementing provincial laws and other tools that support watershed security, like the Water Sustainability Act. 
  • appointing a Chief Watershed Security Officer to support local water boards and respond to issues that can’t be resolved at the local level 


The Cowichan Watershed Board: Watershed Governance in Action

The Cowichan Watershed Board was formed in 2010 to provide direction for sustainable watershed management and to implement the award-winning Cowichan Basin Water Management Plan. From the outset, the Board has been co-chaired by Cowichan Tribes and the Cowichan Valley Regional District. Through this model, Cowichan Tribes and the CVRD are developing strong partnerships and demonstrating a deep commitment to moving down the path of reconciliation. Although it does not yet have formal (or regulatory) authority, the CWB is established as a trusted, legitimate leader on watershed issues, including:

  • Through an array of watershed monitoring/restoration projects, the Board builds deep understanding of watershed health and dynamics.

  • The CWB generates linkages between different agencies often operating in isolation, and provides a key bridge between interests in complex water challenges. 

  • Through partnerships, the Board generates significant funding for watershed governance

  • The CWB has built awareness about water in the community and created a culture of water stewardship and conservation




2. Establish a permanent source of watershed security funding for BC communities

HOW: Build an independently managed $2 billion BC Watershed Security Fund that funds local communities in every region of BC to secure their watersheds. The Fund must be managed with representation from every region of the Province. 



In 2023, thanks to CodeBlue pressure, the Province kickstarted the Watershed Security Fund with an initial $100 million investment in an independent trust. But that’s not nearly enough. One key strategy to build the Fund is to make big industry pay their fair share for the massive amounts of water they extract from BC watersheds, and to reinvest that money in the independent Fund. 

  • Minimal provincial capacity - the provincial government lacks the staff and resources required to do the ‘nuts and bolts’ work of water management (e.g. monitoring, planning, and enforcement). 

  • Responsibilities downloaded without resources - First Nations are critical stewards of fresh water but receive no share of the water royalties collected by the provincial government from industry activity on their traditional territories. In the face of provincial inaction, local governments and community organizations are also playing leadership roles but receive no dedicated provincial funding for the water management responsibilities they have taken on. 

  • Big business getting big subsidies - large resource companies pay a tiny fraction of their profits to access fresh water in BC, especially taking into account the costs they impose on communities to manage and clean-up the impacts (like switching drinking water sources or building a new drinking water treatment plant when there are mine tailings spills, or contamination from industrial agriculture). The maximum rate BC currently charges industrial users is only $2.25 per million L of water, less than a pint of beer. What this looks like in practice:

    • A mining company using 1200000 m3/year would pay $2500
    • A water bottling company using 200 000 m3/year would pay $450


Right now, big industry makes huge profits off of their access to our vital freshwater but pays pennies for it. Increasing corporate water royalties and flowing that money into the independent Watershed Security Fund will help grow the fund so local communities can implement the solutions needed to safeguard their watersheds. 


  • Charging water rentals does not mean water commodification. Increasing water rentals and ensuring an appropriate price signal associated with industrial use of fresh water does not mean ownership or commodification of water itself. Instead, it is a fee associated with the privilege of accessing and using this public resource and not an opportunity to exchange it on the private market.
  • Water rental fees do not mean charging for household water use. They are only related to non-domestic water uses—whether that’s mining, water bottling, irrigation, etc. 
  • This is about big industrial users. This is not about imposing further fees on small farmers or business owners, but rather targeting the big industrial users who are having the most significant impact on our fresh water. 



3. Get tough on water wasters and polluters

HOW: Appoint a new Chief of Watershed Security Officer to ensure government does its job and to enforce the rules against corporate malfeasance.


Right now, the government has no clear point of oversight for water and watersheds. That means that there’s no place for British Columbians to call, or go, when we see concerns and corporate infractions in our watersheds, like fish kills, dumping into local creeks, or spills. There’s also no regular government “eyes and ears” on the ground holding big companies accountable to the rules and enforcing them when they don’t. 

  • NO accurate inventory of provincial water supplies exists because industries are NOT universally required to report how much water they actually use. This makes good water management virtually impossible.
  • The Province has completed ZERO Drinking Water Protection Plans— an essential tool for ensuring the safety of community water sources.
  • The fracking industry has built 92 Unauthorized Dams storing huge quantities of water illegally. There are also over 10,000 abandoned (‘orphan’) oil and gas wells with a price tag of $3 billion to clean up.
  • Clearcut logging has proceeded with next to no consideration of its impacts on water, which has drastically altered the hydrologic balance of many watersheds and contaminated drinking water supplies.

As a result of the lack of rules and consequences, industries continue to profit from BC’s water often at the expense of healthy freshwater systems and the communities they sustain. 


The Office of the Chief Watershed Security Office would:

  • Act as an independent watchdog with teeth overseeing corporate actors in BC watersheds, including forestry industry, water bottlers, and mining, responsible for science-based enforcement of the rules
  • Be a rapid response and investigative unit to respond to citizen concerns about watersheds and infractions
  • Support local watershed boards to identify and solve issues.