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Serious consequences await those who miss B.C. groundwater licensing deadline

Looming deadline is less than month away

February 3, 2022  By Government of British Columbia

Victoria, B.C. – The deadline to apply for a provincial water licence for “existing groundwater users” is fast approaching.

The deadline is midnight on March 1.

“Existing groundwater users” are those who were using groundwater from a well or dugout on or before Feb. 29, 2016, for non-domestic purposes, such as irrigation, commercial or industrial use. A water licence is not required for a household well or groundwater used for domestic purposes, such as watering small lawns and gardens. However, if groundwater is being used for non-domestic purposes and an application has not been made, it is advisable to act now to secure the water rights.


There may be serious consequences for water use if the March 1, 2022, deadline is missed. Existing groundwater users who have not applied by the deadline will be unauthorized and must stop using water immediately.

Those who miss the deadline will be treated as a “new user.” Their date of first use will no longer be recognized and the licence may be refused in water-stressed areas. The historical date is crucial because older licences have priority access to water during shortages.

Missing the deadline could be costly and may include fines for unlicensed use of groundwater. Water licence applications made after the deadline will not benefit from the waived application fee and may require costly studies to support an application.

The online application has been improved and one-on-one assistance for submitting an application is available through FrontCounter BC.

Existing groundwater users are encouraged to have key pieces of information available to help the online application process go smoothly, such as:

  • well location, depth and construction;
  • legal description of property;
  • evidence of when groundwater was first used;
  • history of use from the well; and
  • other related information about water use and works.

B.C.’s water is deemed a precious and limited resource. Over the past decade, the province has witnessed the increasingly dramatic impact that a changing climate is having on water resources and drought conditions. Recent experiences demonstrate the need to prepare for future climate conditions and reinforce government‘s commitment to strengthening water security.

The provincial government says groundwater licensing helps to ensure a fair and transparent process for determining who uses the water, including during water shortages, and helps protect the environment, as well as the businesses and livelihoods that depend on reliable access to water.

Learn more about water licences:

“How to apply” video, using irrigation as an example:

Register a domestic well. Domestic wells do not require licences, but people are encouraged to register their well so their use can be protected:

To learn more about licensing groundwater, visit:

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