Editorial: Domestic vs Non-domestic water

Editorial

Tuesday, January 10 2017

It’s clear a lot of what is going to be argued about when it comes to the new Water Sustainability Act will be around determining who’s rights do come first. And whether a usage is domestic or non-domestic.

With respect to the Letter to the Editor in today’s Sounder, the Water Sustainability Act does not prevent a neighbouring property owner from putting a domestic well in to the ground.

Even with the ‘First In Time, First In Right’ provisions, those won’t mean anything until/unless the province actually starts to regulate when and where private domestic wells will go. Registration so far is only voluntary, with the carrot dangled out there that registered wells will have some ephemeral rights at some point in the future.

Also with respect to the writers of the letter, while the province doesn’t currently have any provisions for rainwater as a potable water source, it also has no prohibition for the use of rainwater for domestic uses.

There is no provincial regulation is out there preventing anyone from installing a rainwater catchment system on their home. But there are provincial regulations prohibiting the use of rainwater in non-domestic purposes. 

One of the ironies of the WSA is that the very uses which would put a larger drain on an aquifer - commercial - are the very uses which cannot legally use rainwater. Even if the rainwater is put through the exact same filtration and treatment methods as well water, and it passes all the required tests, the province has not yet approved rainwater for commercial use.

The Regional District of Nanaimo and the rest of the BC Municipal Governments are lobbying to have the rules changed to allow rainwater for commercial use.

Perhaps the province doesn’t want those millions of dollars it will reap from formerly-free commercial wells to dry up as commercial property owners invest in harvesting what falls from the sky.

But quite clearly (it cannot be said any clearer) there is no prohibition on a private home on Gabriola using rainwater catchment for potable water purposes.