Ensuring Access to Water

It Is Absolutely Critical that You Have Secure Access to Clean Water

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This applies to EA analysis of proposed projects as well as to the negotiation of the Water Chapter in treaty negotiations. Water is your most important resource. Without access to clean, fresh water you will not have healthy salmon polulations, you will not have water available for new housing projects, and your future economic development will be severely curtailed by lack of fresh water. There are three major reasons why First Nations are now finding access to clean, fresh water supplies ever more difficult:

Provincial Over Licensing

The first reason involves the history of government water licencing in British Columbia which has over allocated available river and lake supplies to domestic, irrigation and commercial uses beyond what the rivers and lakes are capable of supplying. In many areas of British Columbia we are running out of water supplies, exactly when they are most needed, in the summer time, because too many users are licenced to withdraw water from dwindling sources.

This particularly troubling due to the current lack of a Cumulative Environmental Impact Strategy that would leave water for decion makers in future generations as opposed to maxxing out supplies for curent economic development. The groundwater withdrawal situation is even worse. Most groundwater sources (called aquifers) are poorly understood.  And there is no comprehensive groundwater licensing system in place to ensure fair and equitable access to this prescious resource.

The Impact of Climate Change

The second reason for lack of access to water supplies is the increasing impact of climate change on the pattern of precipitation across British Columbia. In many areas more intense rains are falling during the winter, but rising spring temperatures quickly melt any snow that would otherwise be stored for the summer when its really nedeed.

Add to this the fact that summers have been becoming distinctly drier and you have the makings of water conflicts and severe competition for a declining resource. This means less water for fish, less water for cultural preservation and less water available for the next generation of environmental planners.

Aboriginal Water Rights

Aboriginal water rights, in the true sense of the term, have not been recognized in British Columbia.

Project Analysis for Water Allocation, Planning and Monitoring

thumb Great Slave LakeWhenever you are considering allocating a significant component of a water body (e.g. river, lake, groundwater) for a major project, you must undertake a supply demand analysis. This analysis must consider the entire some level of river basin planning to ensure that water allocation is transparent, democratic and sustainable. There are two steps in this process. First the planners must learn to understand the ecosystem, including the existing Cumulative Environmental Impacts, by examining available monitoring (N.B. available monitoring is usually seriously incomplete). Secondly, a planning and decision making process must be designed that corresponds to sustainable, shared decision making for all residents. We bring our professional environmental knowledge, facilitation skills, knowledge of government organization, particularly at the federal, First Nation and provincial levels, and bring in Associate expertise as required, to address and resolve these allocation issues.

In situations where there is insufficient monitoring information to enable informed decision making (which is more often the case) we will develop specific strategies to effectively respond to information gaps.

Negotiating the Water Chapter in Treaty Negotiations                                                                                                       

  The fundamental point in the negotiation of the Water Chapter, is to ensure that theCommunities will have reasonable access to clean, sustainable water supplies throughout their lands. The achievement of this goal is becoming increasingly difficult due to past over-licencing by the provincial government, which has led to decreasing supplies of water when and where needed, and sharply increased competition today for what water is left.

We examine all of these factors from both a Community perspective (Knowledge Holders, Elders, youth and Chiefs) and from a technical, professional perspective in order to obtain a vision of present and future water issues which provides the foundation on which a successful water negotiation strategy is based.

Relationship to Climate Change

Today rivers are not behaving as they once did. The timing of precipitation has been substantially changed for many river basins in British Columbia, meaning in some cases that water availability is at all time lows precisely when it it is most needed. Spring snow pack melt is occurring earlier, leaving less available water in mid to late summer months, while the incidence of extreme precipitation events is increasing in both intensity and frequency.

The entire approach to negotiating water allocation has been severely impacted by climate change, which may mean that you will soon not have water when you most need it. There are a range of negotiation strategies that can be employed to address this issue, the fundamental point being that there must be sufficient water provided for in any anlaysis of proposed projects, as well as in the negotiation of the Water Chapter in the treaty process, to ensure that the key Community needs are provided for on a sustainable basis.


Water Resource Management Experience

thumb YK sampling 2webBrian Olding M.Env.Des., has carried out environmental planning in B.C., was the former Head of Environment Canada's Water Quality Branch for northern Canada, and has extensive field experience in monitoring design, sampling, laboratory coordination, oil spill monitoring and clean up, contaminated site management, national park experience, as well as water negotiation mandate development in both the federal government and First Nation negotiation environments. He has personally reviewed the water component of hundreds of EA project assessments.

First Nations Treaty Negotiation Experience

BOA Ltd. was selected by the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group to prepare chapters and provide table negotiation support and strategy for chapters on Environmental Assessment, Sub-surface management, Environmental Protection, Water Resource Management, and, Shared Decision Making. We spent five years working with Hul'qumi'num community working groups, from whom the ground-up mandates were conveyed to me bu community knowledge holders, Elders and Chiefs. Brian Olding directly assisted at the tripartite table negotiations for assigned chapters.

Contact Brian Olding & Associates Ltd.

E-mail: brian@brianolding.com

Telephone:   604.531.7132

Mobile:         604.790.1948

Thank you for your visit. If you have an issue or concern that you would like to discuss with Brian Olding, please email or call me directly. We are experienced in working with Chiefs, Elders, Staff, Cabinet Ministers, Corporate Officers and Professional Colleagues from all aspects of Environmental Science.

Brian Olding M Env Des 2


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