Visionary laws protecting our water

Take  Namibia’s announcement this week of the new Namib-Skeleton National Coast Park, which transformed the entire coastline of the country into a  national park.

CapeFur Seal (Arctocephalus pusillus), colony at Cape Cross, Skeleton Coast, western Namibia, South West Africa (c) Helen Morf/WWF-Canon
Visionary laws protecting the watery part of our blue planet are fewer and farther between.  Oceans are notoriously difficult to regulate. For fresh water, it’s even harder to spot the legal leaders.
Now there’s a chance for one province to assume the leader’s mantle. This province is renowned for its mighty rivers, productive estuaries, and seemingly limitless supply of rain. Yes, here on the Wet Coast, the BC provincial government is poised to amend its century-old water law, first passed in 1909, to help miners get their fair share of a stream. And as it evolved over the years, the law kept this focus on water for people, not necessarily for nature.
Now that is set to change, and BC can join the ranks of water law leaders by legislating environmental flow protection ( the topic of my next blog post), and regulating groundwater (the one after) and a whole range of new initiatives to bring the province’s water law into the 21st century.
By leading on water law, BC can add to its list of environmental law firsts. On climate change, BC was the first province to put a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target into law.  At the same time, it mandated carbon neutral public sector. Back in the 70s, the province drew lines around the most productive agricultural land, putting it off limits to development, and the lines are still in place. Look at a map and you see where the city ends and the farmland starts. The Agricultural Land Reserve created one of the best urban containment or anti-sprawl boundaries in the country.
Now the province is set to change the water rules, by making sure there’s enough for the cranes and eagles, for the frogs, salamanders, salmon and other fish, for the ecosystem itself, with more than enough left over for the all the people who depend on this life giving resource. The province’s new water law can live up to the true promise of its proposed name- the Water Sustainability Act. For more  on the BC proposal, see And for perspective from environmental groups on the proposed new law, see