The British Columbia government is seeking public comments on its livestock water regulations by Feb. 16.
The proposed regulations within the province’s Water Sustainability Act, which was passed in 2016, are meant to clarify livestock water use and development on crown range and private land. In addition, the proposal allows for livestock watering use on leased reserve lands, treaty land or title lands where the First Nation consents to the grazing activity on those lands.
Earlier regulations addressed water pricing, dam safety and ground water protection and licensing.
“There was really no definite protections listed for livestock water, so we were championing a separate regulation come forward and provide those protections,” said Elaine Stovin of the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association.
The proposal is able to address some specific questions about livestock water uses and development.
A dugout is a typical water development, and the new regulation says no license is needed if it is fed by snow melt of rainfall.
Any existing dugout with a berm less than two metres high and volume less than 2,500 cubic metres is allowed without a license.
However, in the future regulators may look at the source of the water supply, such as a diversion from a creek or ground water seepage, to determine whether a license is needed.
Drought proofing is not mentioned in the current proposal.
“We have been advocating that livestock would still have access to that water,” Stovin said.
“It is an animal welfare concern. They really need the water. Two, they don’t remove a lot of volume from the river.”
Conservation of water is included in the new law.
“The Water Sustainability Act does have within it parameters to allow for minimum flows and conservation flows,” she said.
“What the livestock regulation is intended to do is to provide water security for livestock to recognize all the ways they use water, and it removes barriers for people putting in off-stream waterers because we know they are beneficial for producers and the environment,” she said.
A future regulation for area-based water management is expected to deal with regions facing chronic low supplies. The plan is to develop local consensus on how to deal with shortages or agriculture water reserves.
The province has extended the ground water licence application fee waiver period from Dec. 31, 2017, to March 1, 2019, and aligns with the extended date of March 1, 2019 for existing ground water users to apply for a licence. Licensing gives ground water users greater security by establishing a protected water right.
In rural areas, domestic water that depends on a ground water source does not require a licence. A multi-service well for household use and a small number of animals still comes under the domestic use umbrella, and no license is required.
“If you are watering over 10 animals, then you need to look at a livestock purpose,” she said.
The BCCA has been working with ranchers to apply and receive ground water licenses, but approvals are taking longer than expected.
The intentions paper is available online at engage.gov.bc.ca/app/uploads/sites/71/2018/01/Livestock_Watering_Regs_intentions_paper.pdf.