British Columbia - 2012 Policy Information  British Columbia Shield

The province of British Columbia (BC) is widely diverse in its geography - from the Canadian Rockies to the Okanagan Valley, and from desert-like conditions to temperate rain forests.  The majority of the population gets its water from surface sources, but these sources are glacier-fed and, therefore, somewhat uncertain in the long term.  Ground water sources are often over-used and many are suffering from pollution.  The anticipated impacts of climate change on BC surface water supplies and the decreasing capacity of groundwater resources led the Province to develop the “Living Water Smart Strategy” in 2008.  The strategy has a target of supplying 50% of new municipal water needs through conservation by 2020 and an increase in water use efficiency of 33% across the province. The province has also committed to encouraging the labeling of water-efficient technologies, educating British Columbians on how to save water and money, and looking at new ways to help promising water conservation technology succeed through integrated resource recovery.

Use the links below to jump to a specific question:

Q1. Agencies Q9. Permitting Q17. Technical Assistance
Q2. Toilet Regulations   Q10. Drought Plans Q18. Volumetric Billing  
Q3. Showerhead Regulations Q11. Conservation Plans Q19. Metered Connections 
Q4. Urinal Regulations Q12. Authority to Approve Plans Q20. ET Microclimate Information  
Q5. Clothes Washer Regulations Q13. Plan Update Frequency Q21. Efficiency Strategy
Q6. PRSV Regulations Q14. Planning Framework Q22. Alternative Sources
Q7. Building or Plumbing Codes Q15. Implementation Requirements Additional Information
Q8. Water Loss Q16. Funding for Conservation

 

 

 

 

 



  1. What provincial ministry, department or agencies are in charge of drinking water conservation/efficiency?

    Ministry of Environment, Water Protection and Sustainability Branch
    Ministry of Health 
    Ministry of Community, Sport, and Cultural Development 
    Ministry of Energy and Mines, Office of Housing and Construction Standards

  2. Does the province have a water consumption regulation for toilets that is more stringent than the federal standard?  

    Neither the federal nor British Columbian governments have a regulation for toilets at the point of sale.

    Although provincial building and plumbing codes can require water efficiency standards in new construction and renovations, and mandates minimum efficiency standards for energy consuming products, there is to date no federal regulation for mandating the water efficiency of toilets at the point of sale.

    BC’s new High Efficiency Toilet requirement for new construction is more stringent than the National Model Building Code and other Provincial codes (refer to question 7).

  3. Does the province have a water consumption regulation for showerheads that is more stringent than the federal standard? 

    Neither the federal nor British Columbian governments have a regulation for showerheads at the point of sale.

    Although provincial building and plumbing codes can require water efficiency standards in new construction and renovations, and mandates minimum efficiency standards for energy consuming products, there is to date no federal regulation for mandating the water efficiency of showerheads at the point of sale.
     
  4. Does the province have a water consumption regulation for urinals that is more stringent than the federal standard?

    Neither the federal nor British Columbian governments have a regulation for urinals at the point of sale.

    Although provincial building and plumbing codes can require water efficiency standards in new construction and renovations, and mandates minimum efficiency standards for energy consuming products, there is to date no federal regulation for mandating the water efficiency of urinals at the point of sale.
    BC’s new efficiency requirements for urinals in new construction is more stringent than the National Model Building Code and other Provincial codes (refer to question 7).
      
  5. Does the province have a water consumption regulation for clothes washers that is more stringent than the federal standard? 

    No.

    Minimum water efficiency standards for commercial and residential clothes washers are established through Canada’s Energy Efficiency Regulations, limiting the Minimum Modified Energy Factor to greater than 35.68 L/kwh/cycle for capacity > 45 Land to greater than 18.4 L/kWh/cycle for capacities < 45 L.

  6. Does the province have a water consumption regulation for pre-rinse spray valves that is more stringent than the federal standard?  

    No.

    Minimum water efficiency standards for pre-rinse spray valves are established through Canada’s Energy Efficiency Regulations, limiting the flow rate to less than 6.1 litres per minute at 60 Psi water pressure as of January 1, 2012.

  7. Does the province have mandatory building or plumbing codes requiring water efficient products that exceed the federal standard? 

    Yes.

    The BC Green Building Code Initiative updated the British Columbia (BC) Building Code and is now more stringent than the national requirement. As of October 4, 2011 a water efficiency section adopted in the code set the following limits for plumbing fixtures in new residential construction - maximum flush volume of 4.8 litres for toilets and 1.9 litres for urinals. The BC Building Code will also adopt the specifications in the 2010 National Plumbing Code in 2012 to allow non-potable sources to be used with dual plumbing within the home for fixtures other than sinks and faucets. Specifically, the plumbing code permits rainwater (referred to as storm sewage in the code) or greywater that is free of solids to be used for the flushing of toilets, urinals, directly connected underground irrigation systems that only dispense water below the surface of the ground, or the priming of traps. Changes are proposed in the BC Green Building Code Initiative to allow further uses for rainwater.

    Also a new objective of the code is to “limit the probability that, as a result of design, construction or renovation of a building the use of water will be unacceptably inefficient.”  The unacceptable risks of inefficient water use addressed in the code are those caused by: inefficient plumbing fixtures and inefficient water distribution systems.

    The National Building and Plumbing Codes of Canada are the model codes. They are issued by the Institute for Research and Construction (IRC), a part of the National Research Council of Canada. As model codes, they have no legal status until it is adopted by a jurisdiction that regulates construction. The Provinces and Territories of Canada are allowed to adopt parts or all of the code and to alter the code as they see fit.

    As of 2010 the National Plumbing Code does not explicitly mandate the use of water efficient fixtures – instead it references the CSA B45 standards that dictate maximum flush volumes for toilets of 6 litres and 3.8 Lpf for urinals and CSA B125 that dictates maximum flow rates of 8.3 Lpm for residential lavatory and kitchen faucets, 1.9 Lpm for public (non residential bathrooms that are exposed to walk-in traffic) lavatory faucets, 9.5 Lpm for showerheads, and 6 Lpm for commercial pre-rinse spray valves. Specifically, the National Plumbing Code permits rainwater (referred to as storm sewage in the code) or greywater that is free of solids to be used for the flushing of toilets, urinals, directly connected underground irrigation systems that only dispense water below the surface of the ground, or the priming of traps.  
     
  8. Does the province have any regulations or policies for water utilities regarding water loss in the utility distribution system?  

    No. 

  9. Does the province require conservation activities as part of its water permitting process or water right permit?

    No.

    Conservation is being examined as part of BC’s new Water Act for both surface and groundwater. Water conservation is more a part of management of the water right, as opposed to the application for a right.

    In contrast to surface water supplies, the reporting requirements for groundwater well drilling are voluntary and by location, source, and purpose of extraction. No license is required for ground water extraction.

    By 2012, through the “Living Water Smart Plan” (2008), the government will regulate groundwater use in priority areas and large groundwater withdrawals. 
     
  10. Does the province require preparation of drought emergency plans by water utilities or cities on any prescribed schedule?  

    No, however they are encouraged.

    The province does not require water utilities or cities to prepare a drought emergency plan but the Ministry of Environment does encourage drought plans, and many communities are beginning to prepare for low stream flow conditions with drought management plans. 

    The 
    provincial drought action plan (2005) includes two key action items: 1) develop an emergency response template and assist communities in developing emergency response plans for loss of potable water and/or fire fighting water, and 2) ensure a provincial drought management plan is in place for future years.
    http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wsd/public_safety/drought_info/cabinet/action_plan.pdf 

    The publication “Dealing with Drought: A Handbook for Water Suppliers in British Columbia” (2009) provides drought management goals and support for water suppliers assessing, planning, and responding to drought conditions. 

  11. Does the province have a mandatory planning requirement for potable water conservation/efficiency separate from drought emergency plans?   

    Yes, the Ministry of Community and Rural Development requires conservation plans as a requirement for infrastructure funding.

    BC does not require drinking water conservation plans but the Ministry of Community and Rural Affairs has recently changed the eligibility requirement for water and wastewater infrastructure funding to require a council-approved water efficiency plan.  

    The province (Ministry of Environment) will act as a support arm for communities doing watershed management planning in priority areas and is encouraging watershed considerations be incorporated into other plans like regional growth strategies.

  12. Does the province have the authority to approve or reject the conservation plans? 

    N/A because no plans are required.
     
  13. How often does the province require the water utilities to submit a potable water conservation plan (not part of a drought emergency plan)? 

    N/A because no plans are required.

  14. If the province has a mandatory planning requirement for potable water conservation separate from drought emergency plans, is there a framework or prescribed methodology?

    N/A because no plans are required.
     
     
  15. Does the province require water utilities to implement conservation measures, beyond just the preparation and submittal of plans? 

    N/A because no plans are required.

  16. Does the province offer financial assistance to utilities, cities, or counties for urban water conservation programs such as a revolving loan fund? Grants? Bonds? Appropriations?  Bonds?  Appropriations?

    No, however the Ministry of Community and Rural Development requires water conservation plans as a criteria for water infrastructure funding.

    Canada does not have a revolving fund for infrastructure loans. Federally, the Green Municipal Fund (GMF) administered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) provides grants for up to 50% of project costs, or below-market, low interest loans of up to 80% of project costs. FCM is an advocacy organization; however the Government of Canada endowed the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) with $550 million to establish the GMF program.

    The GMF funds municipal projects and studies, which have included feasibility studies of water conservation programs, water distribution system leak detection and control projects, plumbing retrofit programs, wastewater recycling, and sustainable community plans involving water conservation. In 2011, water conservation projects that reduce water use by more than 20% are a funding focus.

    The Building Canada plan is the primary mechanism in Canada for funding water and wastewater infrastructure, and encompasses a number of funds including provincial and municipal base funding, gas tax funds, and the Building Canada fund. Over half of the funding under the Building Canada plan is provided as base funding to municipalities, and the funds are generally administered by the provinces. The Building Canada fund promotes long-term funding of water infrastructure projects, including projects designed to improve conservation of water. Funding focuses on improved treatment standards that emphasize the protection of human health. The projects are required to be supported by measures that improve the management of sources of drinking water, reduce demands, and improve the management of drinking water infrastructure.

    All projects are cost shared, generally in equal thirds between federal/provincial/municipal governments. The Building Canada fund operates through two components: the Major Infrastructure Component (MIC) that targets large strategic projects of national and regional significance, and the Communities Component that focuses on projects in communities with populations of less than 100,000. 

    To date, funded projects have focused on centralized infrastructure as opposed to conservation efforts, with the exception of metering. Capital cost funding projects must result in a tangible capital asset. Planning costs are also eligible, which could potentially support the development of water conservation plans.

     
  17. Does the province offer technical assistance for urban water conservation programs? 

    Yes. 

    The Ministry of Community and Rural Development, along with the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance, released the “Water Conservation Planning Guidebook for British Columbia Municipalities.”

    The BC Ministry of Environment has developed several tools as part of the Living Water Smart Strategy, such as:

    1) The Water Smart Home Assessments - The assessment tasks helps consumers think about how they use water in the home.  It compares usual practices with water efficient practices and helps consumers identify steps to reduce water use and impacts. 
    2) Water Conservation Calculator - The web-based Water Conservation Calculator was developed by the Province of British Columbia to support its infrastructure grant application process.
    3) The Waterbucket - The Waterbucket is a collaborative online resource designed to provide the complete story on integrated water management - why, what, where, and how.
    4) Water Balance Model - In collaboration with provincial organizations the Water Balance Model was created to bridge engineering and urban planning.  It is meant to provide detailed calculations to help communities create neighbourhoods that integrate both good planning and innovative engineering designs.
     
     
  18. Does the province require volumetric billing?

    No
     
     
  19. What percentage or number of publicly supplied water connections (residential and nonresidential) are metered in your province?

    40.2% residential and 85.9% commercial

    Municipal Water Use 2009 Summary Tables 

  20. Does the province provide ET microclimate information for urban landscapes? 

    No 

  21. Does the province have a water conservation and efficiency strategy?

    Yes.

    The Living Water Smart Strategy has a target of supplying 50% of new municipal water needs through conservation by 2020 and an increase in water use efficiency of 33%across the province. The province has also committed to encouraging the labeling of water-efficient technologies, educating British Columbians on how to save water and money, and looking at new ways to help promising water conservation technology succeed through integrated resource recovery.

  22. Does the province have standards for alternative water sources?

    Yes.

    British Columbia is the only province with regulations guiding the use of reclaimed water. The Code of Practice for the Use of Reclaimed Water is part of BC’s Municipal Sewage Regulation.

    Additional Information:
     

    British Columbia (2009) Water Conservation 101 Guidebook

    British Columbia (2008) Text of building code changes

    British Columbia (2005) Infrastructure Community Water Improvement Guide

    British Columbia (2009) Dealing with Drought

    British Columbia (2008) Living Water Smart

    Gibbon, W (2008) Who uses water-saving fixtures in the home - Canada

    EPCOR (2003) A Practical Guide for Ecoscaping in Western Canada

    EPCOR (2000) Water Efficiency Brochure - British Columbia

    Environment Canada (2011) 2009 Municipal Water Use Statistics

    Environment Canada (2011) Municipal Water Pricing Report