Commission Addresses Questions Related to Water Licences

How does the BC Oil and Gas Commission (Commission) ensure the accuracy of the information it receives, because there are requirements in water licences for companies to record daily average water discharges and diversion rates, plus they must provide the Commission their overall water usage on a quarterly basis?
 
  • The Commission records and monitors withdrawal information submitted to the Commission on a quarterly basis. The Commission checks to ensure reported water volumes are below licensed allocation amounts. In addition, the commission periodically cross-references withdrawal against water use information to ensure that water withdrawal numbers are aligned with water usage.
  • The Commission also cross-references water withdrawal against activity levels to ensure these numbers are in alignment and follow activity trends. Most withdrawal volumes are significantly lower than the allocated water volume.
  • If the amount of water discharged and diverted no longer aligns, the Commission would seek clarification from the licence holder and potentially investigate further. 

Are water licence holders reporting their figures to the Commission based on installed water meter readings and do Commission compliance and enforcement personnel conduct inspections of such meters and record their data readings?

  • Yes, and if there was an issue with the meters working properly, the Commission would start to see discrepancies in the water use numbers submitted over time. It is key for companies to have properly functioning water meters to accurately know how much water they are using.
  • The Commission’s compliance and enforcement staff can ask companies to provide their metering equipment during an inspection. Most inspections on water licences are undertaken in conjunction with dam inspections.
  • Further, during periods of low flow, such as when the Commission issues a Suspension of Water Diversions, the Commission can and does perform spot checks on activity at water withdrawal locations and can request truck drivers to produce their authorization documents.

How many water meters, in total, does the Commission require companies to install at their operations?

  • The Commission does not require a specific number of water meters. Rather, the water licence permits a company to withdraw a specific volume of water from a point of diversion (POD), which needs to be tracked by the company.

What is meant by “water discharges” – do those include any water that is piped from dams/reservoirs associated with a water licence to other points? And how is that water movement tracked by the company and how does the Commission verify how much water is moving through such pipelines?

  • The term discharge refers to the amount of water flowing in the stream (based on wording in the water licence). In terms of water flows, the licence is subject to sufficient flow (or discharge) to allow for water withdrawal. The Commission issues the license to allow for that water withdrawal.
  • While the Commission does not track water movement or the amount of water moving through the pipes, the company will track water movement based on its needs on each pad. The Commission notes much of this water is used many times at different sites and the regulatory focus is around how much water is withdrawn from the natural water cycle, how much, if any spillage has occurred and how it is disposed of when companies are finished with its use.

How does the Commission provide assurance water levels in the Kiskatinaw River remain at healthy levels and are not overdrawn – and who monitors the river’s water levels and company withdrawals to ensure that water is not withdrawn during critical low-water flows?

  • The Commission’s hydrologist, along with Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) staff and Water Survey of Canada staff, monitor flows on the Kiskatinaw River. An informal group called the Kiskatinaw River Group has been formed,  comprised of several companies operating in the area, City of Dawson Creek and the Commission. The group is in regular communication to ensure flows in the Kiskatinaw River are being monitored and to keep each other informed as to who is withdrawing water, at what rate and when water is being withdrawn to ensure the needs of all users, including the environment, are being met.
  • Further, when the Commission suspends water use for industry, inspections are conducted on a continuous basis to ensure water is not withdrawn when a suspension is in place.

In issuing water licences on the Kiskatinaw and other rivers in the region that have seen their water levels fall during drought years, how  coordinat efforts with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) to ensure there is a watershed-wide approach to adequate water flows?

  • FLNRORD recently joined the Kiskatinaw River Group to ensure there is a coordinated watershed approach to managing water in the Kiskatinaw. The Commission’s water staff and FLNRORD staff are in regular communication.        
  • Both organizations are regulated by the Water Sustainability Act (WSA) and Section 15 of the WSA states the Environmental Flow Needs (EFN) must be considered. The BC EFN Policy also regulates water allocation and ensures adequate environmental flows.
  • Prior to issuing a water licence, all existing upstream allocations are factored into the available amount at the point of diversion (POD), and existing downstream needs are considered to ensure sufficient flow is maintained.
  • To provide transparency, all water licences and use approvals are available online through the Northeast Water Tool

What protocols does the have with FLNRORD to ensure the earliest holders of water licences have priority rights of access to water in conditions where water supplies become scarce?

  • Water in B.C. is regulated by the WSA and Water Sustainability Regulation and the Commission administers water licences under the Provincial water licencing database.
  • During times of drought, the WSA, and First-in-Time, First-in-Right, apply to all water licences regardless of whether the licence was issued by the Commission or FLNRORD. 
  • It is important to note the Commission and FLNRORD maintain regular communication during times of drought and both take part in the Provincial Technical Drought Working Group.