Non-Point Source Water Pollution in British Columbia: An
Components of BC's Non-Point Source Action Plan
at the Site
are many laws, regulations, policies, programs and guidelines
for NPS pollution control and prevention, however, implementation
and coordination across agencies must be improved to be effective.
The main pollution occurs where human settlement is most
dense and where demand for high quality water for drinking,
recreational use and aquatic habitat is greatest. As we enter
the 21st century with the prospect of rapid population growth
and increased demands on water resources, it is clear that
our existing approaches to handling this source of water
pollution will become increasingly inadequate.
extremely fortunate, however, to have a natural abundance
of water in British Columbia. The majority of our water supplies,
other than in more densely settled and developing areas,
are in relatively good condition. There is time to change
our attitudes and relationship with our water resources,
and we must if we expect to enjoy a relatively high standard
of water quality. But the work must start now to prevent
or minimize future environmental, health, and economic costs.
Plan sets out a multi-faceted approach for tackling British
Columbia's NPS pollution. Twenty key action items, organized
under six initiatives, have been identified to address NPS
pollution from all sources (Table 2).
The six initiatives and the actions within them are complementary
and represent an integrated, multi-faceted approach to managing
the unique challenges of NPS pollution. No single initiative
is more important than another.
is time to change our attitudes and relationship
with our water resources, and we must if we expect
to enjoy a relatively high standard of water quality.
But the work must start now...
Provincial action alone, however, cannot possibly succeed in achieving these
initiatives and actions. Cooperation from other levels of government, particularly
local governments, and active participation of industry associations and
individual citizens are all essential to ensure successful delivery of
this Action Plan. Provincial policy direction and coordinating support,
coupled with grass roots knowledge, experience, and initiative at the local
level are needed to make the Action Plan a reality.
key action items, organized under six initiatives,
have been identified to address NPS pollution.
A. Education and Training
NPS water pollution originates from the combined actions
of many individual citizens and businesses, their close involvement
and support in addressing NPS pollution is absolutely essential.
However, many people are not well informed about the water
quality impacts that can result from certain behaviours such
as pouring used oil onto the ground, or by over-applying
fertilizers to their lawns and gardens. First, people must
be made more aware of the environmental risks associated
with these types of activities and given information on environmentally-safe
alternatives. Second, the public and local authorities must
be convinced that pollution prevention is far better in terms
of effectiveness and cost than pollution regulation and after-the-fact
is the key to long-term change in behaviour.
Education is the key to long-term change in behaviour. Environmental education
for all ages and across all key business sectors can get at the causes
of NPS water pollution. Attitudes can be shifted that produce life-long
changes in individual consumption patterns and ways of doing everyday things.
education, and training are the most important strategies
in managing NPS water pollution. Strategies are, or will
be, underway which target the public and private educators
and trainers, school children, local elected officials, media,
industrial and utility managers, resource managers, community
stewardship groups, and youth organizations.
Action 1: Implement a Public Awareness
Strategy for NPS Pollution
Lead development of a provincial water education program,
that includes NPS, aimed at the public, students, and
Coordinate education efforts across audiences to maximize
Inform local elected officials and administrators about
the effect that local decision-making can have on water
Raising public awareness through effective education and communication initiatives
is an effective tool in managing NPS pollution. Outreach efforts can influence
individual and corporate behaviour, changing people's habits which in turn
can help prevent pollution problems before they occur. Some of the education
initiatives for NPS pollution that are being implemented or are under development
by the ministry include:
- Environmental Youth
Team Non-Point Source Pollution Education Program.
Environmental Youth Team employees hired by BC Environment
are delivering NPS pollution messaging to local governments,
community groups, stewardship groups, schools, and the
general public in the high-growth areas of eastern Vancouver
Island, the Okanagan Valley and the Lower Mainland. As
part of this program, a clean water/ NPS pollution brochure
series, poster, video and 3-D models were developed by
the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (Water, Land
and Air Protection) in partnership with the Capital Regional
with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment Canada and
others to deliver a boater-awareness program, including
wide circulation of the new booklet Protecting BC's
Aquatic Environment: A Boater's Guide and the new Green
Boat Check initiative for recreational boaters.
NPS pollution education for elementary grades in BC schools
by augmenting the ministry's Eco-Education Green Team program
with a new Water Crew.
the recent entry into Canada of a water education program
for teachers — Project Wet. Develop a BC
supplement to the main workbook to increase the relevance
of subject materials to local issues.
a Well Protection Toolkit in partnership with the Ministry
Coordinate Education Efforts
Other initiatives are also underway in British Columbia for NPS pollution education,
aimed at raising awareness and shifting public attitude about water pollution
issues and solutions.
Drain Marking Program involving painting of yellow
fish symbols beside storm drains.
Source to Sea, GVRD teacher education package.
Canada's Environmental Citizenship/ Freshwater Series.
Enhancement Program education materials on water
quality and habitat protection.
River Estuary Management Program education package
and Simple video: a simple, step-by-step onsite
sewage system maintenance and trouble-shooting guide
- Streamkeepers programs
to support volunteer stream enhancement efforts.
pollution education campaign in the Fraser Valley. Through
a partnership involving the federal government, the Fraser
Basin Management Program, and the Greater Vancouver Regional
District, an intensive visual campaign using television,
bus stop posters, and other media was used to raise awareness
about the sources of NPS pollution. In Washington State,
this same campaign reached millions of people with positive
results. In a post-campaign survey, one third of the people
who recalled the advertisements on an unaided basis said
the ads prompted them to change their behaviour to protect
YELLOW FISH PROGRAM
recent years, the federal and provincial governments
have cooperated to promote a "yellow fish" program,
where organizations such as Scouts and Guides are
encouraged to mark storm sewer drains with yellow
pictures of fish. The fish symbol reminds people
that these storm drains lead to fish-bearing streams.
As an added benefit, youthful volunteer workers become
aware of non-point source water pollution concerns
and solutions, and are more apt to develop life-long
habits that contribute to water quality protection.
Although each of these initiatives is important and should be continued, the
programs have been undertaken in a relatively independent and ad hoc manner.
In addressing NPS pollution from a province-wide perspective, there is
a need to improve coordination of education efforts, to ensure that the
key themes and messages are stressed and the most important audiences are
reached. To this end, the ministry will review the NPS pollution education
and awareness initiatives being delivered by government and non-government
organizations in British Columbia. The review will look at the messages
being communicated and the target audiences they are reaching to identify
gaps in messages and audiences, and to fill those gaps by encouraging existing
providers of the education programs to augment their efforts as appropriate.
In addition, the Ministry will continue to produce education and communication
materials to deliver on its own initiatives.
in the development and delivery of this public awareness
strategy should include other provincial agencies, the federal
government, the educational system, non-government organizations,
the private sector, and local governments. Ongoing consultation
is required to develop and implement an effective and efficient
outreach program that is both effective and sustainable over
the long term.
Education of Regional and Municipal Officials
One key to managing NPS pollution is having influence over what activities
can and should be conducted on adjacent drainage lands. Cooperation and coordination
with local governments, who have jurisdictional authority over zoning and bylaws,
are vital if a sustained and healthy water resource is to be achieved. Local
decisions on land-uses and the potential effects on water, which might otherwise
be susceptible to overwhelming economic or other pressures, should be made
in the context of ensuring safe and abundant water supplies for natural, domestic,
agricultural, commercial, and recreational purposes. Where there are avenues
for public input into local government decision making, the benefits of having
both an informed public and local authority are obvious.
pollution education program for local government officials
would be a valuable tool for achieving this goal. The purpose
of such a program would be to inform local government officials,
waste managers, and association representatives about NPS
pollution management and to encourage their participation.
will pursue opportunities to deliver clean water messaging
to municipal officials through such initiatives as the Fish
Protection Act. Streamside protection measures, for
example, are seen as key avenues for addressing NPS pollution.
Action 2: Promote Prevention of NPS
Pollution Through Industry Associations
Work with industry associations to develop and promote
NPS pollution prevention through education, training,
and operator and technology certification.
sectors have associations, councils, or federations that
serve individual business members in areas such as product
research, marketing, liaison with government regulators,
and other promotions. Examples that are relevant to NPS pollution
include the British Columbia Council of Forest Industries
(all major forest licensees in the province) and the Council
of British Columbia Yacht Clubs (includes many yacht clubs
in the province and represents many recreational boaters).
Many such organizations, operating province-wide or at a
more regional level, are potentially effective vehicles for
providing their members with information and training on
how to prevent NPS water pollution. Moreover, these are the
groups that need to be consulted in developing education
and training materials, operational guidelines and practices
for preventing water pollution, and appropriate operator
certification, such as for pesticide applicators or onsite
sewage system installers. In many cases, effective messaging
on NPS pollution is already integrated into the education
programs developed and delivered by associations in collaboration
with the province.
of Environment, Lands and Parks (now called Ministry of Water,
Land and Air Protection), and other provincial agencies such
as the Ministry of Forests and the Ministry of Agriculture
and Food, is strengthening their working relationships with
provincial industry associations and other umbrella organizations
to better understand what NPS pollution education programs
are currently in place, to examine ways to build on these
where appropriate, and to develop additional education and
training programs for individual association members. As
part of this, MELP (WLAP) will work with industry associations
in developing best management practices, codes of practice,
associated education and training materials, and demonstration
and pilot projects for NPS pollution prevention. In addition,
where needed (e.g., for onsite system installers), the appropriate
ministries will work with producer and service-provider organizations
to develop and administer certification, training programs,
and compliance mechanisms for operators.
Return to Key Components of BC's Non-Point
Source Action Plan
B. Prevention at the Site
the activities that cause NPS water pollution cannot be regulated
and policed because they are simply too numerous, too localized,
and, individually, too minor to reasonably pursue through
enforcement. Cumulatively, however, they can cause significant
challenge is to inform individuals and organizations
of the potential of their individual actions to cause
water pollution, and to work at the site to identify
and implement pollution prevention alternatives.
The challenge is to inform individuals and organizations of the potential of
their individual actions to cause water pollution, and to work at the site
to identify and implement pollution prevention alternatives. An effective
tool in this prevention approach is the application of Best Management
Practices (BMPs). As the name suggests, these practices describe the best
available methods for preventing the transfer of pollutants from human
activities into water. BMPs may be described in policies, procedures, guidelines,
technologies, or codes of practice that explain how to conduct an activity
in a manner that prevents pollution. Construction of stormwater storage
ponds, storage tanks, terraces, sediment traps, or ecologically-based practices
for rotational cropping and pest control are all examples of BMPs. They
might be developed by a level of government, an industry association, or
by a club or organization that has an interest in water stewardship.
cases, the basis for BMPs is legal; consideration and mitigation
of NPS may be incorporated into conditions of approval for
project certification under the Environmental Assessment
Act, or for tenure or approval under the Water Act or Land
Act. In mining projects, it is becoming common to require
a Sediment Control Plan to be outlined in the application
for Project Approval Certificate, and incorporated into the Mines
Act permit, with input on fisheries and water quality
issues from ministry staff.
cases, BMPs are non-binding guidelines which inform developers,
organizations and individuals on how to best build a structure
or facility, or perform their business. BMPs must be actively
incorporated into development plans, discharge permits and
other local regulations. A convincing argument for prospective
users can sometimes be that meeting the requirements of a
BMP can avoid pollution prevention orders.
are many examples of how BMPs that aid in pollution prevention
are encouraged in British Columbia:
Stewardship Series of publications has been produced through
partnerships between federal and provincial governments
and non-government organizations, and includes a stream
stewardship guide for planners and developers, a community
greenways source book, a guide for agriculture, a planning
guide for access near aquatic areas, and a stewardship
bylaws guide for local government.
Plans are legally required by logging companies under the
Forest Practices Code guidelines. Erosion and sediment
control guidelines must be incorporated into road building
and timber harvesting plans.
have been developed by the federal department of Fisheries
and Oceans for grit-blasting and bridge painting, given
the serious impacts that these activities can have on fish
Code of Agricultural Practice and Guidelines provides instruction
to farmers on how to minimize the effects of their operations
within their watershed.
local governments require developers to construct stormwater
retention facilities, as a condition of subdivision approval.
Urban Runoff Quality Control Guidelines include stormwater
management recommendations to assist municipalities and
the private sector to minimize the impacts of urban runoff
on receiving waters.
guidelines are also in place for application of herbicides
and insecticides to promote appropriate application rates
and procedures that prevent pesticides from entering waterbodies
directly or by airborne drift.
contemplating works in and around streams, such as construction
of a fence or pipeline through a stream, are required to
notify BC Environment and Lands offices, to confirm that
their site plans and procedures minimize impacts on water
quality and fish habitat.
there are numerous examples of BMPs in British Columbia,
their potential value and adoption as tools for preventing
NPS pollution may be unrecognized or at least under-used.
Sources of NPS pollution of a waterbody or aquifer can be
exceptionally varied, and an effective prevention and/or
treatment strategy must attempt to be all-encompassing.
conservation is also important in reducing NPS pollution,
when coupled with source reductions of contaminants. Over-use
of water contributes to surface runoff and infiltration into
ground water. It leads to increased impoundment of natural
waterbodies to store domestic and irrigation water, which
causes a reduction in the overall quality of those waters.
It can also overload onsite sewage disposal systems beyond
their capacity to handle wastes. The greatest gains in water
conservation, as with BMPs, are to be made at the site level,
especially when water supply and sewage treatment systems
are considered together. In many situations, water can be
reused after an appropriate level of treatment.
Action 3: Support Development and Implementation of Best Management Practices
Support development and implementation of guidance manuals
and best management practices (BMPs) for major sources
of NPS pollution.
Provide advice and support to stakeholders in the effective
use of BMPs.
there has been some good progress made in British Columbia
in developing and implementing BMPs for NPS water pollution
prevention, there are still many needs. A systematic assessment
is needed for each potential pollution source, to identify
the BMPs presently in-place, to assess gaps, and to determine
how widely the BMPs have been adopted and their effectiveness.
New or revised BMPs should be developed to fill the gaps
and provide the basis for a comprehensive program for consistent
implementation of BMPs for each major cause of NPS pollution.
Priorities for development of BMPs must be established, and
BMPs may be adopted as enforceable regulations in some cases.
or pilot projects are potentially a good way to showcase
a particular BMP, and also to provide an experimental basis
for improving the BMP through trial and error.
of Environment, Lands and Parks (now called Ministry of Water,
Land and Air Protection) is developing a compendium of BMPs
aimed at reducing NPS pollution. The compendium will assess
the state and availability of BMPs for selected NPS water
pollution sources in British Columbia, and may include for
and commercial vessel marinas and maintenance yards;
repair and maintenance;
and residential building construction;
and parking lot construction and maintenance;
industry (commercial shipping, railway operations, aggregate
/ concrete operations, pulp mills, saw mills, oil refineries,
food processing, metal smelting, etc.);
business (e.g., film processing, car wash facilities);
maintenance (e.g., gardening, car washing).
will help identify areas where BMPs need to be developed,
as well as establishing priorities for further development
and revision. This information can be effectively disseminated
through the world wide web and printed materials. Consultation
with local governments and industry associations will determine
what BMPs are being used, how effective they are, and what
other BMPs are needed.
Action 4: Promote Water Conservation
Support implementation of the provincial strategy for
is a valuable resource which must be used efficiently and
cost-effectively to ensure a high quality of social, environmental,
and economic well-being. The water conservation strategy
for British Columbia will contribute to a sustained and healthy
water resource and provide a common framework for water management
activities throughout the province.
water use will significantly benefit water quality. For example,
reducing household water use may help prevent onsite sewage
system overflows, thereby protecting the environment. Also,
careful irrigation practices prevent surface runoff, soil
erosion, and nitrate leaching into ground and surface water.
of Environment, Lands and Parks (Water, Land and Air Protection),
Water Management Branch, has developed a Water Conservation
Strategy for BC. The goal of this strategy is to ensure sufficient
water for all uses and to facilitate a more sustainable approach
to managing water resources. A successful water conservation
NPS pollution through efficient water use measures;
secure long-term water supplies, particularly in high growth
areas and areas with limited water supplies; and
ensure sufficient water for fish and aquatic habitat and
other in-stream uses.
of the strategy include education, communication, operation
and maintenance of delivery systems, economic incentives,
management systems (e.g., plans), market development opportunities,
and regulations and bylaws.
its jurisdiction, the ministry will address water conservation
measures for water allocation licensing and fees, regulation
of private utilities, and water quality management. In areas
beyond its jurisdiction, the ministry will seek partnerships
and advocate water conservation policies and programs with
other provincial ministries, governments, industries, and
communities throughout the province.
increasing water demand has been met through increased
supply. But this is becoming a less acceptable
option in light of greater environmental and financial
costs. The alternative is to reduce water demand
and encourage water reuse. This can be achieved
reducing leaks in underground pipes and taps
- installing water metres and leak detection devices
- reusing and recycling water
- pricing water at rates which reflect its true value
- restricting or controlling water use during periods of drought
- requiring installation of low volume showers and toilets
increasing one's knowledge of water conservation
- planting drought-resistant shrubs and grasses
- replacing water-using appliances with models that do the same job with
- employing water-saving gardening practices
- changing household habits to minimize water use
To ensure the successful implementation of the water conservation strategy,
the ministry will:
water users about provincial priorities and initiatives;
institutional, legal, economic, attitude, knowledge, and
technical barriers to water conservation;
and guide decision-making at the provincial and local levels
through legislation, policies, and guidelines;
the efficient and appropriate use of water among water
Return to Key Components of BC's Non-Point
Source Action Plan
C. Land-Use Planning, Coordination
NPS pollution requires not only engineering, technology,
and best management practices, but also fundamental changes
in society's behaviour, attitudes, and priorities with respect
to the environment. One of the greatest challenges in preventing
NPS water pollution is incorporating pollution prevention
into land-use decisions and life style choices.
there are existing land-use planning processes which can
serve as mechanisms for addressing NPS pollution. Furthermore,
growing public awareness of environmental issues and increased
local involvement bodes well for programs which reinforce
public stewardship in protecting water resources.
the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (Water, Land
and Air Protection) has a leadership role in supporting and
participating in land-use planning. Success will depend on
the extent to which environmental objectives are incorporated
into land-use decisions by local government. Ministry leadership
is also key in supporting and guiding community stewardship
initiatives for watershed protection and participation in
Action 5: Incorporate Water Resources Management Objectives into Land-Use Plans
Incorporate NPS pollution prevention strategies into
Higher Level Forestry Planning Processes for provincial
Support local governments involved with Regional Growth
Strategies with technical information on water resources.
Promote the incorporation of NPS pollution prevention
strategies and policies into Regional Growth Strategies
and Official Community Plans.
Ensure that streamside protection measures incorporated
into local government planning processes address NPS
Support local government in protecting greenways.
are a variety of land-use planning processes in British Columbia,
each focused on a specific level in the hierarchy of planning,
or on specific land and resource management issues. They
may apply to either Crown land, private land, or both.
Higher Level Forestry Planning Processes
Land use planning for forestry in BC is conducted through a series of higher
level plans which establish resource management objectives to guide on-the-ground
operations. The Forest Practices Code of BC Act provides three levels
of planning (strategic, local, and operational or site-specific) for managing
forest resources on Crown land. The focus of these plans is to manage the forest
resource while considering other land uses and resource values.
management zone objectives are developed for a large geographical
area. Within this plan, landscape unit objectives and, if
necessary, sensitive area objectives are defined. Development
of interpretive forest site objectives, recreational site
objectives, and recreation trail objectives is the final
step. The objectives of the higher level plans are used to
direct the operational plans (e.g. Forest Development Plans,
Silviculture Prescription Plans, and Stand Management Prescription
level plans allow regional factors to be considered, while
the regulations under the Forest Practices Code provide the
baseline for protection of water quality from NPS pollution.
These include standards for practices and the appropriate
areas to conduct these practices. For example, the Forest
Road Regulation states that maintenance activities must not
cause known Water Quality Objectives to be exceeded. Similarly,
the Operational Planning Regulation provides protection to
water from NPS pollution by prescribing riparian zone standards
for specific stream classes. Once adopted, the objectives
from the higher level plan, and the regulations, must be
reflected in operational plans.
important to have wide participation in the development of
all higher level plans because each subsequent plan in the
hierarchy is shaped by the preceding level. For example,
resource management zone objectives influence landscape unit
objectives, which in turn influence sensitive area objectives.
of the higher level plans that are not worded specifically
to protect water quality, like terrain stability and road
design, may still provide protection from NPS pollution.
This reinforces the need to participate in all levels of
planning. The Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (Water,
Land and Air Protection) will continue to participate in
higher level forestry planning to incorporate objectives
and ensure proposed objectives consistently protect water
quality and prevent NPS pollution.
Regional Growth Strategies and Official Community
A Regional Growth Strategy (provided under Par 25 of the Municipal Act)
is a regional vision that commits affected municipalities and regional districts
to "promote human settlement that is socially, economically, and environmentally
healthy and makes efficient use of public facilities, land, and resources".
It is initiated and adopted by a regional district and referred to all affected
local governments for acceptance. The goals for Regional Growth Strategies
that provide opportunity to address NPS pollution include: protecting environmentally
sensitive areas; reducing and preventing air, land, and water pollution; and
protecting the quality and quantity of ground and surface water.
statement and related goals for Regional Growth Strategies
also apply to Official Community Plans (OCPs). Official Community
Plans "provide a general statement of the broad objectives
and policies of the local government respecting the form
and character of existing and proposed land use and servicing
requirements in the area covered by the plan". In addition,
OCPs may contain policies to preserve, protect, restore,
and enhance the natural environment, its ecosystems and biological
Community Plans are prepared by municipalities for areas
under their jurisdiction and by the regional districts for
unincorporated electoral areas under their jurisdiction.
Policies contained in Regional Growth Strategies are conveyed
through regional context statements for municipal Official
Community Plans and directly to Official Community Plans
in regional district electoral areas.
for Regional Growth Strategies and OCPs establish the basis
for the use of a wide range of regulatory and development
approval powers available to local governments to address
NPS pollution issues. These issues include stormwater runoff,
impervious surface area, soil deposit and removal controls,
and development approval conditions. To determine the potential
environmental impact of development and help establish approval
conditions, local governments may also require development
approval information for:
bylaw amendment applications;
permit applications; and
industrial and commercial use permit applications.
RESOURCE MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES
IN HIGH-LEVEL REGIONAL PLANNING
and sub-regional land-use plans describe broad
objectives and strategies for the management of
natural resources (including water) within the
example, the 1995 Kamloops Land and Resource
Management Plan, covering more than 3 million
hectares in BC's southern interior, contains
the following objectives and strategies:
no bulk water export or diversion
- watershed assessments and remedial strategies for priority watersheds
- rehabilitation of impacted watersheds
- a ground water aquifer management program
- management of work in and about streams to protect aquatic values
- acceptable road construction, maintenance and deactivation standards
support local government planning and development approval
in addressing NPS pollution, the Ministry of Environment,
Lands and Parks (Water, Land and Air Protection) will participate
with those local governments engaged in preparing Regional
Growth Strategies and OCPs and may:
in the preparation and review of documents;
technical information on water resources;
environmental information needs;
sensitive aquatic habitats;
best management practices; and
community stewardship initiatives and participate on advisory
of these planning processes for water quality management is
that each process represents an opportunity to address NPS
pollution proactively. The challenge is to ensure that the
agencies and organizations with a water quality mandate, or
a related interest in water quality, participate effectively
in the planning to ensure that the plans take water quality
goals and NPS pollution prevention requirements into account.
Extensive planning of settled land is undertaken on an ongoing basis by regional
districts and municipal governments, exercising their responsibilities for
local land-use control. Most local governments in British Columbia have developed
and adopted Official Community Plans and related bylaws for regulating land-use
zoning and subdivision. The Local Government Statutes Amendment Act,
(1997), provides municipalities with the additional opportunities to incorporate
environmental objectives into Official Community Plans. Section 12 of the Fish
Protection Act enables the province to establish policy directives regarding
the protection and enhancement of riparian areas that may be subject to residential,
commercial, and industrial development. Where applicable, a local government
must use its zoning or rural land use bylaws to provide riparian area protection
in accordance with the directives, or other bylaws and permits, to provide
a comparable or higher level of protection. Some of the approaches available
to local governments to achieve riparian area protection can also address NPS
At the local government planning level, the province encourages local government
in protecting networks of wetlands, greenspaces, aquifer recharge areas, and
other key conservation areas, collectively known as greenways, before development
impacts reduce the viability of those resources to contribute to good water
quality. Greenways can be initiated locally or at the regional level through
a Regional Growth Strategy. The province will assist in this challenge according
to priorities and resource availability, by:
local inventories of natural areas through the provincial
Corporate Resource Inventory Initiative, and participating
in the development of Regional Growth Strategies; and,
financial incentives, primarily in the form of provincial
planning grants, for communities for their land-use planning
(which may include emphasis on "green planning").
6: Promote NPS Pollution Prevention in Waste Management
Address NPS pollution in Liquid Waste Management Plans.
Address NPS issues in Pollution Prevention Plans.
Liquid Waste Management Planning
Municipalities and Regional Districts may develop Liquid Waste Management Plans
(LWMPs), which specify a broad strategy for liquid waste treatment and disposal,
for approval by the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (Water, Land and
Air Protection). To date, 17 plans have been developed and another 17 are being
these plans have focused on point-source sewage discharges.
Opportunities to incorporate source control measures, stormwater
management, and other 'best management practices' to address
NPS pollution should be implemented by local authorities
as new plans are started or existing plans are amended. A
key requirement of the LWMP process is public involvement,
thereby providing the opportunity for the community to ensure
that the plan reflects local values and concerns.
Pollution Prevention Plans
The term "Pollution Prevention" means to avoid, eliminate, or reduce
pollution at source rather than treating or containing it after it has been
created. It is a proactive approach, which integrates environmental decisions
with business decisions, to avoid creation of pollution rather than dealing
with after-the-fact remediation.
of Environment, Lands and Parks (Water, Land and Air Protection)
in partnership with industry is piloting the development
of a unique approach to environmental management whereby
individual companies develop comprehensive pollution prevention
(P2) plans. Pollution prevention plans identify all sources
of existing and potential pollution and management options
to address them. The overall goal of the P2 plan is to achieve
environmental protection while realizing financial efficiencies
for the company and involving the public in an open and transparent
plan is developed by the company in conjunction with the
community, including local government representatives, employees,
environmental organizations, private citizens, and the Ministry.
The P2 planning process involves several steps including
initiation of the process, formation of a Public Advisory
Committee, a full environmental review of the site, development
and implementation of the P2 plan, monitoring, assessment,
and reporting results. Continual improvement is built into
the process by mandating a periodic review of the plans.
the environmental review stage there are opportunities to
identify sources of NPS pollution. Solutions are developed
and evaluated in the drafting of the P2 plan. Examples of
possible NPS pollution issues include vehicle emissions;
losses from transportation, handling, and storage of materials;
stormwater runoff; and sources of potential ground water contamination.
process provides unique opportunities in NPS pollution prevention
efforts. Industrial non-point source areas can be identified,
prevented, or managed. Under the guidelines of P2 planning,
management efforts can then be evaluated and reported to
all stakeholders. This process allows the success of the
management strategies to be measured and may provide opportunities
for effective management efforts to be applied in other areas.
7: Lead Development of Water Management Plans or Liquid
Waste Management Plans in Critical Areas
Develop policy and regulations for Water Management Areas
Identify critical areas and require Water Management
Plans to address NPS pollution.
Develop Liquid Waste Management Plans in critical areas.
Protection Act (1997) provides consequential amendments
to the Water Act. When those amending sections
are brought into force by regulation, the Water Act will
enable the Minister of Environment, Lands and Parks (Water,
Land and Air Protection) to designate Water Management
Areas to assist in addressing conflicts between water users,
and between water users and in-stream flow requirements,
or risks to water quality for that area, including fish
and fish habitat.
may establish a process and terms of reference, including
public consultation, for the development of a Water Management
Plan for a designated Water Management Area. A plan would
consider all strategic operational and land-use planning
processes within the area, and could consider issues relating
to surface water runoff and ground water. Once approved by
the minister, provisions in a plan must be considered in
the ministry's licences, approvals, permits, authorizations,
or other powers. The Water Management Plans will therefore
provide an opportunity to address NPS pollution affecting
water quality in a broad area-based approach. Once a process
is set, the ministry will establish criteria for identifying
critical areas, and proceed to use Water Management Plans
as a tool to address water issues, including NPS pollution.
of Environment, Lands and Parks (Water, Land and Air Protection)
also has the ability, under the Waste Management Act,
to require local governments to develop Liquid Waste Management
Plans (see Action 6). This may be desirable in critical areas
where public health or important water resources are threatened
by activities that are not readily regulated by other means,
such as NPS pollution affecting ground water, community water
supplies, or valuable fishery resources.
are a number of environmental programs involving
regional agencies, which provide a forum for planning,
objective setting, monitoring, education and general
coordination of government and community initiatives.
These programs serve as clearing houses for information.
Action 8: Support Government Coordination
are a number of environmental programs involving regional
agencies, which provide a forum for planning, objective setting,
monitoring, education, and general coordination of government
and community initiatives. These programs serve as clearing
houses for information useful to local governments and community
groups, and provide a focus for support from federal and
provincial agencies. Given that NPS pollution can be more
readily resolved through coordination of government programs
and community efforts, continued involvement and support
of regionally coordinated programs will be undertaken. A
few examples of such programs are:
- The Georgia
Basin Ecosystem Initiative, proposed by Environment
Canada to address environmental issues in this densely
populated region, is aimed at establishing an integrated,
partnership approach to managing growth and addressing
its consequences. Proposed NPS related actions include
promoting local stewardship, preventing pollution, and
developing best management practices and public awareness
programs. The Georgia Basin Ecosystem Initiative recognizes
the need for coordination and cooperation between partners,
and the effective transfer of knowledge to local decision
- The Fraser
River Estuary Management Program and the Burrard
Inlet Environmental Plan have attempted to integrate
land-use and water quality issues to protect environmental
quality in those areas. For example, shoreline habitat
in the Fraser River estuary has been classified in terms
of suitability for development as a guide to developers.
This classification is based on the sensitivity and importance
of these habitats to aquatic life and wildlife. These
programs also provide a forum for coordination of environmental
monitoring by various levels of government.
- The Fraser
Basin Council is a non-government organization supported
by federal and provincial funding. The Council provides
coordination of community organizations, government agencies,
First Nations groups, and businesses in implementing
a "Charter of Sustainability." This charter
aims to support economic and environmental sustainability,
using an ecosystem and community-based approach. The
Council plans to provide progress reports, conflict resolution,
and education programs to support these aims.
OR GROUPS OF WATERSHEDS
MAKE SENSIBLE PLANNING UNITS
all activities in or on the air, land and water can
affect water quality, water quantity or aquatic resources.
Watersheds, which include all water sources in the
drainage area (aquifers, estuaries, springs and wetlands)
are the appropriate spatial units for integrating
environmental and economic planning.
Action 9: Support Community Based Waterbody Protection Initiatives
communities have initiated projects to restore streams, beaches,
and watersheds, to organize volunteers to monitor water quality,
and to educate and exchange information among businesses,
farmers, and residents. Supporting these grass roots initiatives
is recognized as a key component of NPS pollution prevention.
It is at this level that the life-style and land-use practices
that prevent NPS pollution are most readily affected.
are about 180 community stewardship organizations throughout
the province. They refer to themselves variously as round
tables, community resource boards, resource councils, or
simply as working committees or planning teams. Normally,
they represent a wide cross-section of the interests in the
local area, and are potentially a strong force in addressing
NPS pollution. These organizations can provide critical information
and resources to develop water resource management plans,
and provide a forum for resolving disputes over water use
and pollution. Some of the individuals and organizations
participating in the stewardship groups are the same parties
that are needed to engage in hands-on action to prevent NPS
SALMON RIVER WATERSHED
Salmon River Watershed Round Table, initiated in
1991 and based in Salmon Arm, is made up of over
100 members, including local governments, First Nations,
federal and provincial ministries, landowners, farmers
and ranchers, environmental groups and the forest
industry. Their projects illustrate the positive
role that local stewardship groups can play in protecting
water quality in BC:
restoration of degraded sites
- development of a citizen-based watershed plan and integration into Official
Community Plans and bylaws
- encouragement of youth involvement
- dissemination of information and advice
A number of provincial agencies have recently developed guidelines and source
books on how to establish local stewardship groups. For example, the federal
and provincial governments, in partnership with the Fraser Basin Management
Program and non-government organizations, produced the document Community
Stewardship: A Guide to Developing Your Group as part of the Stewardship
Series. Lessons from grass roots watershed management groups in the
United States and elsewhere are also available. In addition, funding is
available for environmental protection projects undertaken by non-profit
organizations through such initiatives as Environment Canada's Eco-Action
2000. The stage has been set to encourage the creation of more groups of
this type and to encourage their involvement in NPS pollution prevention.
will continue to support the development and activities of
local stewardship groups and, in particular, will encourage
groups to plan and manage projects for NPS pollution control.
The Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (Water, Land
and Air Protection) will support local stewardship groups
to document water quality problems, develop watershed goals,
identify viable projects, secure resources, develop treatment
approaches, and prepare monitoring and evaluation plans.
recently helped establish the BC Lakes Stewardship Society
to focus on small lakes and to provide guidance and support
to groups requiring advice on water quality. The BC Lakes
Stewardship Society is a chapter of the North American Lake
Management Society; this affiliation will provide BC community
groups with linkages to similar groups throughout North America,
which will enable them to better procure funding, information
and other resources.
community groups are often created in response to issues
of local importance and concern. Issues such as restoring
fish habitat, protecting drinking water supplies, reducing
algae problems, controlling urban growth, restoring a beach,
or controlling aquatic weeds may serve as the catalyst to
bring people together. Many of these issues are related to
NPS pollution, but the connection may not be obvious. Established
community groups may need help to recognize the value of
a watershed approach or to incorporate NPS objectives in
their activities. Actions that benefit fishery resources,
for example, restoration and protection of riparian vegetation,
prevention of erosion, and reducing peaks in stream flow,
are also valuable practices for reducing NPS pollution. It
is critical not to encourage formation of competing groups
or to divert groups from ongoing programs, but to encourage
existing groups to take a broader perspective.
TEN LESSONS LEARNED FOR
The best plans have clear visions, goals and action
2. Good leaders are committed and empower others.
3. Having a coordinator at the watershed level is desirable.
4. Environmental, economic and social values are compatible.
5. Plans only succeed if implemented.
6. Partnerships equal power.
7. Good tools are available.
8. Measure, communicate and account for progress.
9. Education and involvement drive action.
10. Establish a link with existing decision-making processes.
from the USEP's Top Ten Watershed
Return to Key Components of BC's Non-Point
Source Action Plan
D. Assessment and Reporting
10: Evaluate Performance of NPS Pollution Actions
Measure success of program in terms of water quality
and key management objectives.
Modernize field measurement methods.
Seek partnerships to support evaluation program.
Support community volunteer monitoring initiatives.
Communicate successes and challenges to all stakeholders.
The NPS Action Plan will involve activities by local and senior levels of government,
as well as activities by industry, businesses, community groups, and individuals.
Evaluation of such a wide array of efforts is challenging indeed. Nevertheless,
the benefits of this initiative must ultimately be measured in terms of the
bottom line-improved water quality. Just as the incremental deterioration of
water quality from numerous small pollution sources has slowly increased over
the past decades, we must recognize that improvements resulting from our actions
will occur slowly over the long term as well. These improvements must be measured
to demonstrate the benefit and to sustain the efforts over the long term.
non-point sources may be a primary source of water contamination,
identifying and determining the relative contribution from
multiple sources is not a simple task and will require a
renewed commitment to water quality monitoring and assessment
in priority watersheds. The information derived from these
assessments will help in directing effective preventative
and remedial actions.
to measure changes in, and maintenance of, water quality
in areas subject to non-point source pollution control actions
is essential. This information is needed to evaluate the
relative benefit of various actions. Support and buy-in from
local authorities and the public cannot be expected without
demonstrating measurable environmental benefit.
to direct measurement of the water quality response to the
actions implemented, there are other ways to evaluate the
performance of this program. These could include evaluation
of how well water resource issues are incorporated into land-use
plans and the result in changes to land-use practices. The
degree of community support and involvement in stewardship
initiatives and the number of Liquid Waste Management Plans
incorporating stormwater management measures could also be
considered in the evaluation of the program. Modernize field
measurement methods The field methods for monitoring NPS
pollution must also be improved. The periodic physical and
chemical monitoring methods prevalent in point-source pollution
investigations are not adequate to capture the short-term
transient events often associated with rainfall, and may
not be sensitive enough to show the cumulative impact on
is a need to utilize:
indicators of water quality (e.g., fish, invertebrate,
or aquatic plant "bio-indicators"), which can
integrate NPS pollution effects over long periods, and
electronic automated monitoring equipment, which can capture
data during transient pollution events.
continue to develop and maintain a full range of water quality
monitoring tools that will allow us to apply a level of monitoring
effort that is appropriate to the environmental and health
risks in a particular situation.
Partnerships will be essential for conducting an effective monitoring and assessment
program to evaluate the success of our NPS pollution prevention efforts. No
one agency or level of government has the resources to fund programs needed
in the many watersheds afflicted by NPS pollution. All stakeholders-the federal,
provincial, and local governments, community stewardship groups, water purveyors,
and users of the land and water — will have to contribute to the evaluation
of our collective efforts to prevent NPS pollution. Moreover, we must expand
the circle of responsibility for NPS pollution monitoring, by involving local
individuals, as well as corporations who are discharging waste to the environment.
Support Volunteer Monitoring
Community-based volunteer water quality monitoring can also generate valuable
information on program performance. To be effective, the Ministry of Environment,
Lands and Parks (Water, Land and Air Protection) will provide the necessary
technical advisory support to ensure methods are acceptable to generate reliable
Communicate with Stakeholders
Effective interpretation and communication of information on water quality
and NPS pollution prevention actions are essential to sustain the long-term
cooperation of all stakeholders. A key element of this program will be regular
communication of results to technical audiences, such as municipal and regional
district engineers, and more general audiences such as municipal councils,
community groups, and the public. Such communications will address best management
practices, examples of community initiatives, or results from water quality
with local agencies would identify key NPS pollution
cases and allow evaluation of these areas as pilot
projects. In cooperation with local partners, the
relative pollution contributions from various sectors
and land-use practices would be designed and applied,
and the projects would be monitored to determine
Action 11: Assess Key NPS Pollution Cases
Focus effort on selected pilot areas.
Investigate the relative contribution of pollution from
Apply and evaluate remedial measures.
Use results to guide pollution prevention efforts elsewhere.
the very limited research conducted on NPS pollution in British
Columbia, evaluations are needed to guide the program towards
maximum water quality benefits. Consultations with local
agencies would identify key NPS pollution cases and allow
evaluation of these areas as pilot projects. In cooperation
with local partners, the relative pollution contributions
from various sectors and land-use practices would be evaluated,
remedial actions would be designed and applied, and the projects
would be monitored to determine the benefits. The lessons
learned and the tools developed in the pilot projects would
be documented and used to guide NPS pollution control and
prevention in other watersheds, and in ongoing development
of NPS pollution management actions.
Action 12: Continue Reporting to the Public
Report to the public on provincial water quality issues
Issue a BC Water Quality Trend Report
Reporting to the Public
Non-technical reports on the state of water quality in British Columbia are
a powerful means of communicating information on specific water quality problems,
general trends over time, and the effectiveness of strategies for addressing
water quality problems. In 1996, the Ministry of Environment issued a Water
Quality Status Report, rating the quality of over 120 waterbodies and
ground water aquifers in the province. It provided a general snapshot of where
we were, relative to our established provincial water quality objectives. In
addition, the Ministry and federal agencies have produced periodic State
of the Environment Reports for British Columbia, which include sections
on water quality. The last State of the Environment Report in 1993
included assessments of the general condition of both surface and ground water
quality and information on the main sources of contamination.
BC Water Quality Trend Report
The Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (Water, Land and Air Protection)
and Environment Canada are preparing a Water Quality Trend Report for the province,
outlining water quality trends that have occurred over the last decade at about
75 locations. The ministry has also published a Water Quality Indicator which
highlights the status and trends in BC's water quality (in the document Environmental
Trends in British Columbia).
public reports address NPS pollution to some extent, and
will continue to be delivered by the Ministry in cooperation
with Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and
other partners monitoring water quality. The reports will
increasingly focus on NPS pollution as the assessment and
reporting actions in this report are implemented.
Return to Key Components of BC's Non-Point
Source Action Plan
E. Economic Incentives
capacity of our streams, lakes and ground water to handle
our waste is a "common property resource" — it
belongs to all of us and this, in itself, makes effective
pollution prevention difficult. Individuals who knowingly
or unknowingly deposit small amounts of waste into receiving
waters are not normally motivated to limit their discharges,
because the costs they incur as individuals by discharging
the waste are normally less than the costs that they would
bear if they reduced the waste generated, or disposed of
it in some other way. For example, it is less costly for
a rancher to let his cattle wander freely than to build fencing
to keep them away from streams, less trouble to pour oil
or paint thinner onto the ground than to take it to a recycling
depot, and cheaper for a lakeshore lot owner to install an
onsite sewage system that meets minimum requirements than
to invest in a high capacity or high tech system, or to set
the system far back from the shoreline.
the long-term effect of many small discharges results in
water pollution, which forces the injection of public money
to fix the pollution, or the pollution remains unresolved,
degrading the value of the waterbody. In this sense, individual
polluters are subsidized by taxpayers to continue their behaviour
that causes pollution.
to break this cycle by targeting the individuals who cause
pollution and make them accountable for costs generated by
their activities drive the "polluter pay principle" -
that is, polluters, not other taxpayers, should bear the
ultimate responsibility for the costs associated with disposal
of their waste products. Thus, economic incentives are another
type of policy tool that could be used to motivate a change
in polluting behaviour.
OF SOME ECONOMIC INCENTIVES
property tax breaks
- density bonuses
- retrofitting incentives
- tickets and fines
- performance bonds
Action 13: Assess the Potential for Using Economic Incentives to Encourage
NPS Pollution Prevention
range of economic incentives are available that could be
used to address NPS water pollution. The challenge is to
identify the NPS problems that would be most effectively
addressed by using an economic incentive (either alone, or
in combination with other policy tools), and to determine
which type of economic incentive to use. Some economic incentives
which may have potential for application by local, provincial,
and federal governments, or industry associations to NPS
problems in BC are briefly described below.
Credit Support Incentives
These incentives provide businesses or individuals with loan assistance (e.g.,
reduced interest rates, payment deferrals) in exchange for a commitment to
perform a specific pollution management action. For example, farmers might
receive lower financing charges from an agricultural banking institution in
return for adopting pre-defined "best farm management practices," such
as rotational grazing or fencing off streams from cattle. This is potentially
a win-win arrangement, because farmers would be rewarded with mortgage cost
savings, the bank would reduce the financial risk of inheriting an environmental
liability, and the quality of the receiving waters would be improved.
Property Tax Breaks
This form of economic incentive encourages pollution prevention through reduced,
deferred or forgiven property taxes, or through provision of tax credits that
can be applied elsewhere. For example, a tax break might be offered to a land
owner in exchange for permanent dedication of a wetland that filters out pollution
on that person's private land. Alternatively, a conservation easement covering
an important fish-bearing stream might be registered against the title of the
property, thus preventing future development in and around the stream (the
Fish Protection Act facilitates this with provision for property tax deductions).
There are many precedents for these mechanisms in other jurisdictions (e.g.,
Washington State), which points to their effectiveness for conserving critical
wetland and other important conservation areas.
This strategy would allow land developers to increase the unit density on their
development site beyond normal allowable levels in exchange for a commitment
to adopt "green" construction and land development practices. For
example, construction of semi-permeable surfaces that allow water infiltration
as opposed to rapid runoff, protection of wetlands and riparian buffers, or
installation of stormwater retention and sediment trap systems, might qualify
a developer for a density bonus, and the prospect of an increased profit margin.
Buy-back and Retrofitting Incentives
These actions work to replace inefficient or obsolete appliances with more
water-efficient products, or to promote retrofitting of water-consuming fixtures
and equipment that might lead to NPS water pollution (e.g., leaking toilets
that overload onsite systems not designed for large water flows). A good example
is the provincial Power Smart program which provides rebates for conversion
to more energy efficient appliances, heating, and lighting. Another example
is the existing provincial air quality program to take fuel inefficient cars
off the road through a "scrap-it" program, which provides owners
of old, pollution-prone cars with either a grant towards the purchase of a
new fuel-efficient car or a long-term bus pass.
This form of incentive is "soft" in the sense that it does not result
in direct economic benefit or cost. Instead it motivates good performance through
recognition. It also creates a good corporate image which can affect consumer
choices. For example, an award program could be established to recognize a
producer, developer, or community group for adopting a best management practice,
producing a top-rate pollution prevention plan for a watershed, or achieving
a measurable improvement in local water quality. Such programs might be administered
by a government agency, an independent body, or a peer-group organization.
They can serve as demonstration projects for others to learn from, and to try
to do better through their own efforts.
Full or cost-shared grant programs might be established to provide funds to
local governments, stewardship groups, producer associations, or even individuals,
for engaging in NPS pollution prevention activities that qualify under the
grant program. For example, funds for a local conservation group to prepare
a pollution management plan for a small watershed, could result in significant
local benefits to water quality. Multi-party, cost-sharing arrangements might
be possible for certain types of initiatives, where governments and non-government
organizations contribute to individual pollution prevention projects.
Environmental User Fees
Environmental user fees on products or installations that are linked to NPS
water pollution could motivate purchasers to use less of those products or
to find a more environmentally-friendly substitute. At the same time, these
would provide a source of government revenue for financing clean water initiatives.
Some examples include a tax on chemical fertilizers and pesticides as a means
of reducing the use of those products, or a tax on gasoline in recognition
of the water pollution effects of car use.
This tool provides a source of funds in the event that a development leads
to water pollution, and the developer is unable or unwilling to correct the
problem. For example, in some geological settings, a poorly designed mine can
lead to acid rock drainage, where acidic runoff and seepage from the mine damages
aquatic habitat. If a financial guarantee is obtained by the government agency
that approved the mine, as a condition of allowing the mine to occur in the
first place, a pool of funds is available to remediate the pollution. The possibility
of having to forfeit a performance bond is a motivation for "good behaviour" by
developers, provided that the amount of the bond is set at an appropriate level.
Tickets and Fines
These measures might apply where an individual or a firm can be clearly identified
as the source of pollution or over-consumption. Examples include having caused
an oil spill into a storm drain, polluting water beyond an established water
quality standard, or consuming water beyond a set limit. Implied in this is
the need for legal authority to define and enforce water quality standards.
Currently, for example, a toxic spill that impacts fish or fish habitat can
result in the laying of a charge under the federal Fisheries Act and a potential
fine in cases where the responsibility for the spill and its polluting impact
on fish can be established. In areas where local government water use restrictions
are exceeded, a ticket and fine may be levied by authority of a municipal bylaw.
assessment is needed to determine if economic incentives
are feasible, where they could be most effectively used in
addressing NPS pollution, and which economic incentives would
be best suited for different problems. Design and implementation
issues, as well as the potential economic and regional impacts,
must be examined when considering this approach.
Return to Key Components of BC's Non-Point
Source Action Plan
F. Legislation and Regulation
and regulations are a key component within the policy framework
for managing non-point source pollution.
legislative and regulatory actions under this Action Plan,
the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (Water, Land
and Air Protection) will first maximize the effectiveness
of existing legislation in preventing and managing NPS pollution.
Two recently developed legislative tools that bear on prevention
and management of NPS water pollution are the Fish Protection
Act and the Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act.
The Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (Water, Land
and Air Protection) is committed to developing and enhancing
regulations, policy, and programs under these new acts to
ensure their effective application and enforcement.
regulatory, and policy tools to manage NPS pollution are
the responsibility of other provincial agencies, or the federal
or local governments (see Table 1). In
these situations, the ministry must work cooperatively with
these agencies to maximize the use of these laws in effectively
managing NPS pollution. Because the responsibility for NPS
pollution is shared among agencies, coordination of laws
across agencies is often required.
gaps in existing legislation are identified which can be
filled only with new legislation, the ministry will bring
forward proposals to fill those gaps.
seven actions describe the ministry's plan for the management
of NPS pollution through legislation and regulation.
Action 14: Implement the Water Quality Provisions
of the New Fish Protection Act and Local Government
Statutes Amendment Act
Ensure that new provisions of the Fish Protection Act,
such as streamside protection measures and "sensitive
stream" designation, are designed to minimize NPS
Participate in the development and implementation of
model bylaws for new legislative provisions under the
Local Government Statutes Amendment Act, in support of
the Fish Protection Act, which enables local governments
to improve environmental management activities and prevent
New Provisions of the Fish Protection Act
The Fish Protection Act provides new tools to protect fish by ensuring
healthy fish-bearing streams and plentiful stocks. The highest priorities of
this new legislation are:
protection of riparian areas through streamside protection
- designating "sensitive
streams" for managing land-use and development that
impacts fish habitat.
protection measures provide for development of a new provincial
policy for riparian protection and presents a significant
opportunity for NPS pollution prevention. The protection
measures are intended to minimize or prevent impacts of residential,
commercial, or industrial developments on stream channels,
aquatic ecosystems, water quality, and riparian areas. In
applying the protection measures, local governments will
have some degree of flexibility to accommodate local conditions.
to enhancing fisheries, the streamside protection measures
will significantly benefit other water uses, such as recreation
and wildlife. The ministry will ensure that the streamside
protection measures, and implementation by local governments,
are designed to optimize the reduction of NPS pollution.
This will be achieved, for example, by integrating NPS pollution
prevention measures and tools in the recommended streamside
protection practices for local governments, which will be
developed as part of this initiative. Streamside protection
measures will be enforced through local zoning bylaws. Enforcement
tools can include performance bonding, ticketing, stop-work
orders, or court orders and fines.
fish includes managing NPS pollution
Development of the streamside protection measures has been initiated by the
Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (Water, Land and Air Protection)
in cooperation with other provincial and federal agencies, and local governments.
Consultation with other stakeholders on its development and implementation
stream" designation under the Fish Protection Act also
provides a significant opportunity for preventing NPS pollution.
Streams, where the sustainability of fish is at risk, may
be designated as "sensitive streams". This designation
requires that additional protection measures be implemented
before a water licence will be issued. Water licence applicants
must demonstrate that there will be sufficient water to sustain
fish, and that fish habitat will not be degraded by the activities
of the licensee. Where a recovery plan is developed to address
impacts on fish habitat, this plan will also be able to address
NPS pollution concerns which are affecting the water quality
of that sensitive stream. Recovery plans must be endorsed
by Cabinet, thereby ensuring that NPS remedial measures will
Local Government Statutes Amendment Act
Local governments, through their planning and development approval processes,
play a critical role in the protection of the environment. The Local Government
Statutes Amendment Act, in support of the Fish Protection Act,
will provide new tools to local governments to improve their environmental
planning and management. These tools to protect the fisheries resource will
also enable local governments to protect water quality for other uses as well.
which provide important new tools for NPS management include:
the ability of local governments to protect water quality
by requiring better stormwater management;
local governments to require landowners who pave or roof
an area to manage and provide for disposal of runoff;
local government to establish rules for the maximum percentage
of areas that can be impervious;
local governments' ability to protect fish and fish habitat
by allowing them to place environmental protection measures
in development permits, zoning amendments, and Official
Community Plans; and,
riparian area protection through property tax exemptions.
governments may need some assistance to apply these new tools
in managing NPS pollution. The ministry will participate
with local governments and other provincial and federal agencies
to develop, pilot, and promote model bylaws under the new Local
Government Statutes Amendment Act legislation. This
will assist local governments in preventing NPS pollution,
while considering the different development conditions in
Action 15: Enhance Agricultural Waste Management
Continue Continue to improve administration of the existing
Agricultural Waste Control Regulation under the Waste
Management Act to reduce water contamination from farming
Consult all stakeholders, including the public and the
agricultural industry, to address concerns where water
quality problems exist.
Lead and develop a new government-wide policy for improvements
in agricultural NPS management.
Implement a new agricultural NPS pollution management
pollution in the Abbotsford-Sumas aquifer and high phosphorus
loads into the Okanagan Lakes underscore the need for action
to address the impacts that current farming practices can
have on water resources. Risks posed by cattle having direct
access to drinking water supplies are also major concerns,
particularly with respect to cryptosporidiosis outbreaks
across the province. Educating farmers about the problems
caused by the unnecessary application of fertilizers and
pesticides, and technical assistance in developing sound
farm management practices have helped to some degree in recent
years. However, there remains a need to establish improved
mechanisms for enforcement and corrective actions in key
problem areas. Past efforts have not gone far enough, partly
because of lack of resources and incentives.
of the Agricultural Waste Control Regulation under the Waste
Management Act, and the associated Code of Agricultural
Practice and Guidelines are valuable means for controlling
NPS pollution from farms. A farmer who carries out an agricultural
operation in accordance with the Code does not need a waste
management permit for discharges to the environment.
mature dairy cow produces as much bodily waste
as 20 people each day. That means a moderately-sized
herd of 300 animals produces as much waste as a
community of 6,000.
Washington State Department of Ecology. Confluence.
Vol. 2. No. 3.
Non-point source pollution from agriculture is not unique to British Columbia.
Many jurisdictions in North America and Europe face similar challenges.
Experiences of these jurisdictions suggest that a balanced approach is
the best way to manage NPS pollution from agriculture. A balanced approach
must include education and technical assistance for farmers, and rewards
for those who manage their operations in an environmentally sound manner.
A key outcome is for farmers to be skilled environmental managers. While
enforcement of the regulation is an important key to reducing NPS pollution,
it is an expensive option and will be used only where voluntary action
is not sufficient.
Although it is recognized that new approaches to manage NPS pollution in agricultural
areas are needed, this will require extensive consultation with stakeholders
from the public (including hobby farms), the agricultural industry, and the
regulating agencies. In April, 1998, the Ten-Point Action Plan on Agriculture
and the Environment was signed by the Ministers of Agriculture and Food and
Environment, Lands and Parks, and the BC Agriculture Council. The Ten-Point
Action Plan was developed to help resolve farmers' concerns about environmental
requirements that fall under provincial authority. Consultations with farmers
will be coordinated by a joint working committee of staff from MAF, MELP, and
the BC Agriculture Council and will be in accordance with the Ten-Point Action
Plan. Other levels of government will also be encouraged to participate in
New Agricultural NPS Management Policy
The Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the Ministry of Environment, Lands
and Parks (Water, Land and Air Protection) will work together with the agricultural
industry through the Ten-Point Action Plan joint working committee, to develop
a new government policy for improvements in agricultural NPS management. Education,
rewards, incentives, improvements to the Code, and effective administration
of the Code will be the elements of the new policy.
Action 16: Enhance Onsite Sewage Management
Harmonize the requirements of the proposed Municipal
Sewage Regulation (Waste Management Act) with the Sewage
Disposal Regulation (Health Act).
Strengthen Liquid Waste Management Planning to maximize
prevention of NPS pollution from onsite sewage disposal
Empower and assist local governments to develop and promote
onsite sewage system maintenance bylaws to prevent NPS
pollution from new and existing systems.
Investigate the feasibility of alternative domestic sewage
disposal systems to minimize and eliminate failing conventional
are about 250,000 septic tanks and other onsite sewage treatment
and disposal systems in British Columbia. Onsite sewage disposal
systems (i.e., septic fields) discharge the treated waste
to the land near the site where it was produced. Although,
individually, the majority of systems cause no water quality
problems, the cumulative impact of several systems discharging
in less-than-ideal conditions must be considered. Onsite
sewage systems that are located in poor soils, improperly
installed, concentrated in an area, set too close to a waterbody,
undersized relative to household demands, or poorly maintained
can release pathogens (disease-causing microorganisms) that
can create public health hazards in surface and ground waters,
and nutrients that can cause objectionable plant growth in
The Sewage Disposal Regulation under the provincial Health act regulates
the design and installation of septic systems. Although this regulation certainly
helps to reduce the input of nitrogen and phosphorus to adjacent waterbodies,
it is mostly targeted at preventing human exposure to pathogens. There are,
however, exceptions such as in the Okanagan basin, which is designated as an
environmental control zone area. In that basin, the regulation is more strict
and particularly designed to control phosphorus loading to the lakes. The Sewage
Disposal Regulation also does not address the failure of septic fields due
to lack of regular maintenance and proper care, which are probably a significant
cause of NPS in the province.
SOCIAL SERVICES BUILDING
1995-96, the BC Building Corporation, the Ministry
of Social Services and the Sooke Electoral Area equipped
the Sooke Social Services Building with a fully recycling
tertiary-quality wastewater treatment facility. The
system was needed because the area lacked sewers
and sufficient space for a standard septic field
to serve the building. The treatment facility resulted
in an annual saving of 60,000 gallons of potable
water. Furthermore, the effluent generated was consistently
of high quality.
The regulation of sewage discharges to ground is shared between the Ministries
of Health and Environment, Lands and Parks, with Health being responsible
for discharges from smaller systems (i.e., less than 22.7 m3/d). The Sewage
Disposal Regulation is less stringent than the requirements under the Waste
Management Act. The differences in the regulatory requirements of
the two ministries allow some systems to operate under less stringent requirements,
and therefore may contribute to NPS pollution. These differences will be
addressed through revisions to the Health Act (Sewage Disposal
Regulation) and enactment of the Municipal Sewage Regulation (Waste
Management Act). In addition, records of installation permits need
to be maintained to ensure homeowners can easily locate systems in need
Strengthen Liquid Waste Management Plans
Problems with individual and communal private wastewater treatment systems
are common throughout the province. Frequently, local governments become involved
with these problems, although they have no direct authority or funding to resolve
them. The proposed Municipal Sewage Regulation, in combination with amendments
to existing legislation, would provide local governments with enabling power
to control and finance the resolution of onsite problems. Existing planning
processes, notably Liquid Waste Management Planning, should provide the opportunity
to address NPS pollution from onsite sewage disposal systems. It is important
to include discussions between jurisdictions on appropriate zoning for new
development areas on onsite sewage systems, considering the area may never
be sewered. In sensitive areas, higher standards must also be considered.
Onsite System Bylaws
To deal with poorly maintained septic systems, local governments, particularly
those whose jurisdiction extends over environmentally sensitive waterbodies
and land areas, should be empowered and encouraged to adopt an onsite sewage
maintenance bylaw. The Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (Water, Land
and Air Protection) and Ministry of Health will work with the Union of British
Columbia Municipalities to develop a provincial model bylaw to require onsite
sewage system owners to have their systems periodically inspected and maintained
by a qualified individual. Bylaws could also be developed to ban certain materials
(e.g., phosphorus-based detergents) to reduce contaminant loadings.
Alternative Domestic Sewage Disposal
Many innovative alternative systems are available to reduce the impact of onsite
sewage disposal. The Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (Water, Land
and Air Protection) and Ministry of Health will support local governments in
the use of alternate sewage disposal systems to reduce pollution from failing
conventional onsite systems (e.g., separation of grey and black water and reuse
of grey water for non-drinking purposes).
Action 17: Enable More Effective Stormwater Management
Encourage use of stormwater bylaws for the prevention
and management of NPS pollution.
Enhance the provisions for addressing stormwater quality
in Liquid Waste Management Planning
Investigate and promote the use of stormwater utilities.
Promote partnerships between the province, local governments,
community groups, and others to raise awareness about
urban runoff and to promote grass roots support for stormwater
management in community planning and stewardship activities.
Stormwater Discharge Bylaws
Urban runoff goes into storm drains or ditches and then into surface waters,
and carries with it sediment, oil, grease, organic contaminants (e.g., polycyclic
aromatic hydrocarbons), metals, nutrients, pesticides, salts, and pathogens.
In the past, local governments have had authority under the Municipal Act to
construct and maintain stormwater collection and discharge systems, but were
not explicitly empowered to adopt and enforce bylaws to control pollutants
that are commonly discharged into storm drains. The new Fish Protection
Act and amendments to the Local Government Statutes Amendment Act contain
clear provisions for municipal authorities to protect water quality, through
bylaws, by requiring better stormwater management practices. Local governments
are also authorized to set maximum percentages of areas that can be covered
by impermeable material.
legislation now in effect, the challenge is to encourage
local governments to follow through with appropriate bylaws
to prohibit discharges of deleterious substances to storm
sewers, require developers to construct stormwater retention
facilities to handle runoff, or require oil and grease interceptors
for impervious parking lots. The Ministry of Environment,
Lands and Parks (Water, Land and Air Protection) will work
with local governments to develop model bylaws if municipalities
require assistance. Local bylaws would complement and reinforce
the authority presently granted to the ministry under the Waste
Management Act, and would significantly strengthen fish
habitat protection, which had been limited primarily to after-the-fact
legal action under the federal Fisheries Act.
Enhance Liquid Waste Management Plan Guidelines
Liquid Waste Management Plans (LWMPs) are prepared by local governments with
the participation of provincial and federal agencies, and have been used primarily
to plan municipal sewage treatment systems. The plans are voluntary unless
ordered by the Minister of Environment, Lands and Parks (Water, Land and Air
Protection). Incorporating stormwater and other NPS pollution sources in the
development of LWMPs under the Waste Management Act could contribute
significantly to improving stormwater quality by requiring the collection,
transportation, handling, storage, treatment, utilization, and disposal of
liquid wastes. Several guideline documents on stormwater management are available,
including the Ministry's Urban Runoff Quality Control Guidelines for British
Columbia (1992) and the DFO/Ministry document Land Development Guidelines for
the Protection of Aquatic Habitat (1992).
Waste Management Plans have been completed in about 20 communities
and about 20 more are underway, mainly in the highest growth
areas of the province, including Kamloops, the Okanagan,
the Lower Mainland, and the east coast of Vancouver Island.
for Developing a Liquid Waste Management Plan (1992)
promotes the development of high quality, effective plans.
However, the requirements regarding NPS pollution need
enhancement. The ministry will revise the Guidelines to
expand and emphasize the sections for NPS pollution, and
update the regulatory information to include recent legislative
changes related to the new Fish Protection Act and
amendments to the Local Government Statutes Amendment
RUNOFF IN THE
BRUNETTE RIVER BASIN
highly urbanized Brunette River Basin in Burnaby
has been the focus of studies on the impacts of NPS
pollution. It was determined that since 1973 concentrations
of metals have increased significantly. Studies on
traffic density indicated that high lead, copper
and zinc in stream sediments were probably due to
effects of poor stormwater quality on the receiving
environment are very visible. Once-thriving salmonid
populations have declined or are extinct, swimming
in Burnaby Lake and Deer Lake has been banned and
competitive rowing in Burnaby Lake could resume only
after extensive dredging to remove accumulated sediments
and aquatic weed growth.
Encourage Use of Stormwater Utilities
Historically, stormwater management has been financed through general revenue
from property taxes, and competition for funding from the general tax base
with numerous other issues is inherent. An alternative worthy of consideration
in BC is the use of stormwater utilities. The utility could distribute the
costs among the property owners through user-charges in proportion to the amount
of runoff from their properties (commonly based on impervious surface area).
stormwater utility can include a range of functions for developing
and implementing a well-planned, long-term strategy to control
or eliminate the impacts of stormwater. In the US, stormwater
utilities have proven effective in improving stormwater problems,
such as flooding, erosion, and pollution. Stormwater utilities
promote better understanding and personal responsibility
for stormwater quality. Also, they can facilitate necessary
management actions, such as limiting the proportion of impervious
surface area within a watershed, to maintain environmental
integrity. No two stormwater utilities are the same, because
they are created to address specific problems under unique
circumstances in each municipality.
of Environment, Lands and Parks (Water, Land and Air Protection)
supports stormwater utilities for protecting water resources
within communities. Technical information will be made available
during the implementation phase of this Action Plan, but
this is a new concept for BC, and municipalities interested
in forming a utility should work with the Union of BC Municipalities,
the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and the Ministry
of Environment, Lands and Parks (Water, Land and Air Protection)
to design and implement a model stormwater utility in BC.
Raise Awareness and Encourage Action at the Community
Pollution prevention by citizens at the community level is vastly more cost-effective
for maintaining stormwater quality than mitigative actions taken after pollutants
are introduced. For example, indirect pollution prevention actions can both
improve the quality of stormwater and decrease its volume.
runoff is a key target area for public education efforts.
In 1994, Washington State's Water Quality Consortium began
a campaign to raise public awareness and change individual
behaviour with respect to NPS pollution. Through a year-long
television and newspaper advertising campaign, millions of
citizens were reached. Post-campaign polls showed increases
in awareness and changes in behaviour to prevent water pollution.
of Environment, Lands and Parks (Water, Land and Air Protection)
will raise public awareness and encourage action at the community
level through an extended water education program that coordinates
existing education efforts (see Actions 1 and 2,
Action 18: Manage Boat Sewage
Produce a focused educational program that identifies
how boaters can prevent environmental degradation in
the nominated waterbodies.
Work with the Coast Guard (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
to accelerate the designation of nominated waterbodies
for boat sewage retention under federal legislation.
Review new nominations annually.
Determine the necessary level of infrastructure and enforcement
as the program evolves.
are a number of lakes and marine bays in British Columbia
where sewage disposal from recreational boats has severely
reduced aesthetics and swimming opportunities, degraded drinking
water supplies, and led to shellfish harvesting closures.
Pleasure Craft and Non-Pleasure Craft Sewage Pollution Prevention
Regulations allow the provinces to nominate waterbodies on
which pleasure craft must have sewage retention capabilities.
To date, Okanagan, Mara and Shuswap lakes have received this
designation in British Columbia because of their high importance
as recreational areas and their use for drinking water.
under these regulations is in progress for other inland recreational
waters, as well as key marine areas such as marine parks,
harbours, marinas, poorly-flushed anchorages, estuaries,
and shellfish-growing areas. Approximately 60 waterbodies
have been recommended to the Coast Guard (Fisheries and Oceans
Canada) to receive this designation, including a number of
areas identified by the Environment Committee of the Union
of British Columbia Municipalities.
of Environment, Lands and Parks (Water, Land and Air Protection)
has coordinated a review of the nominated waterbodies to
support the designation of key waterbodies as quickly as
possible. The ministry will work closely with interested
agencies and organizations, including the Union of British
Columbia Municipalities, the Ministry of Agriculture and
Food, the Ministry of Health, Parks Canada, and recreational
boating organizations to refine and apply the criteria for
determining designation priorities. Plans for implementing
and enforcing the designations will be developed by the Ministry
of Environment, Lands and Parks. The Ministry of Environment,
Lands and Parks and Fisheries and Oceans Canada should work
together to develop recommendations on creating pump-out
stations in designated areas. Communication and education
strategies will also be developed, and the Ministry of Environment,
Lands and Parks will review new nominations to expand the
Action 19: Address Forestry and Range NPS Impacts
Improve the process for setting water quality objectives
in designated community watersheds.
Develop new regulations to protect water quality on privately
managed forest land.
NPS impacts of forestry and range use on water quality include
sedimentation, increased water temperature and nutrient loading,
and the introduction of pathogens, toxic chemicals, and organic
debris to watercourses.
of the Forest Practices Code in 1995 was a major step forward
in the protection of water quality from forestry and range
NPS pollution. The Code recognizes the connection of land-uses
to their potential effect on water quality. A number of NPS
pollution management provisions are made, including planning
(e.g., watershed assessments) and operating requirements
(e.g., riparian zone and road building regulations). Programs
to support the Code include the Resources Inventory Program
and the Watershed Restoration Program. The results of the
Resources Inventory Program assist in planning, and the Watershed
Restoration Program mitigates previous damage.In conjunction
with the Code, these efforts address a broad range of water
resource issues, including the reduction of NPS impacts on
of the Code and its supporting programs have been led by
several groups. The Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks
(Water, Land and Air Protection) and the Ministry of Forests
have taken lead roles to produce guidebooks to ensure that
the regulations of the Code are attained. Forest Renewal
BC is funding both the Resource Inventory and Watershed Restoration
Establish Water Quality Objectives
The Forest Practices Code of BC Act requires that water quality objectives
be met in community watersheds where road construction, range, silviculture
and other activities take place. Since there are approximately 500 community
watersheds, the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (Water, Land and Air
Protection) is working with the Ministry of Forests and Ministry of Health
to improve the process for setting water quality objectives. Water quality
objectives will establish a "benchmark" representing water quality
conditions prior to forestry or range activities and will be used to measure
whether changes to water quality occur as a result of forestry or range activities.
Water quality objectives will assist forest companies and the Ministry of Forests
in preventing and mitigating forestry and range NPS pollution impacts on drinking
of water quality on privately-managed forest lands Despite
the initiatives described above, gaps still exist. Forest
practices on privately-managed forest lands are not presently
regulated under the Code, and therefore there is limited
protection of water resources from forest activities on these
of Environment, Lands and Parks (Water, Land and Air Protection)
and the Ministry of Forests, in conjunction with the Private
Forest Landowners Association, plan to develop regulations
to be introduced in the future. These regulations are intended
to protect water quality, fish and critical wildlife habitat,
and soils. In the meantime, the Ministry of Environment,
Lands and Parks and the Private Forest Landowners Association
have signed a memorandum of understanding which outlines
a model for managing BC's privately-managed forest lands.
Action 20: Analyze Existing Legislation
Analyze existing legislation to identify whether opportunities
to strengthen NPS pollution prevention exist.
consultation on legislation in recent years, such as the
ministry's Stewardship of Water initiative in 1993, numerous
stakeholders proposed a more proactive, preventative, and
stewardship- based approach to the protection and management
of surface and ground water quality.
existing legislation is not adequate to implement
the new approaches, or where there are gaps in the
legislation to protect water resources, the ministry
will propose new legislation.
In addition, many stakeholders noted that the province does not legislate ground water
or wells, leaving many sensitive aquifers vulnerable to contamination by
both point and non-point source pollution. They suggested a need to legislate
standards for well construction, maintenance and closure, activities such
as storage and disposal of wastes in the vicinity of wells, and the provision
of well records.
they noted that existing legislation is not adequate to manage
NPS pollution effectively, and to protect surface water quality
for all uses, such as drinking water, recreation, and fisheries.
The need for legislation to investigate and proactively manage
drinking water supplies at risk from contamination has also
existing legislation is not adequate to implement a new approach,
or where there are simply gaps in the legislation to protect
water resources from NPS pollution, the Ministry may propose
new strategies. Consultation with stakeholders would be a
necessary step in developing legislation, or changing the
approach to implementation. Recent regulations which illustrate
successful consultation include the Return of Used Lubricating
Oil Regulation and the Post-Consumer Paint Stewardship Program
Return to Key Components of BC's Non-Point
Source Action Plan
update: August 3, 2001