Water governance includes the laws, regulations, policies, procedures as well as agencies and institutions that make decisions and manage water resources.  Governance also includes the way science, information and community and traditional knowledge inform laws, policies and decisions. Governance is distinct from on-the-ground operational management activities.

How are decisions made that affect watersheds?
Who is involved in watershed management and planning?
How do we ensure that the decision-makers in our watershed are working together?

These answers depend on the watershed – the size, scale of industrial and resource uses and the Provincial and local agencies responsible for land use. Located in broad valleys of the Columbia Basin are private lands in the cities, towns and villages governed by municipalities. The private lands in unincorporated rural communities and settlements are governed by regional districts. The Province has jurisdiction over ‘Crown lands.’ Larger lakes are subject to municipal and regional district planning as well as federal and provincial authority. Local (municipal and regional) governments are often not responsible and do not have authority over the headwaters or Crown lands that provide sources of drinking water, or industrial activities in their watersheds. First Nation Governments have authority and jurisdiction over watersheds – Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 provides constitutional protection to the Aboriginal and treaty rights in Canada.

Community engagement in watershed governance

The Report Community Engagement in Watershed Governance: Case Studies and Insights From the Upper Columbia River Basin highlights how community-based organizations are supporting watershed health. Produced by Living Lakes Canada, Columbia Basin Trust and the University of Victoria’s POLIS Water Sustainability Project, the report explores:

  • The meaning of watershed governance
  • Local watershed protection and B.C.’s new Water Sustainability Act
  • How four local watershed groups have contributed to water governance (Kootenay Lake Partnership, Lake Windermere Ambassadors, East Kootenay Integrated Lake Management Partnership and the Elk River Alliance)
  • Insights from the experiences of others in the Basin

Leading thinking on watershed governance

POLIS Project on Ecological Governance

Real Estate Foundation of BC – Sustainable Funding for Watershed Governance Initiative Task Force

Fraser Basin Council

Union of British  Columbia Municipalities

Okanagan Water Board

The Sustainable Watershed Balancing Act

Guest Blog, by Kim Green, Watershed Geoscientist, Apex Geoscience

The term ‘sustainable watershed management’ is being thrown around quite a bit these days and seems to meanKimGreen different things to different people with different points of view. As a watershed geoscientist who has studied watersheds of the Columbia and Rocky Mountains for the past 20 years I have gained some insight regarding how watersheds work and for me, the term ‘sustainable watershed management’ implies the preservation of the key underlying physical processes in a watershed that govern water and sediment transport. Read More