Approvals for Excavation Dewatering in BC

Posted: August 11, 2023


On March 1, 2016, the Water Sustainability Act came into force, which brings significant new regulatory requirements for groundwater management during excavation activities.

Specifically, a Section 10 Use Approval must be obtained prior to any short-term diversion (i.e. pumping) from aquifer or the temporary construction of works in aquifer (e.g. dewatering well). Under the preceding Water Act, it had been referred to as a Section 8 Short-Term Use Approval.

This notice summarizes key implications for the construction industry in BC.

When do these requirements apply?

The new requirements to any excavation that requires dewatering in order to proceed, including construction sites.

The Use Approval is meant to be short-term, and authorizes the diversion (or pumping) of groundwater from an aquifer for up to 24 months.

The new requirements do not apply to…

  • Local government (i.e. municipality, regional district, improvement district) drainage works, that is works used to drain surface runoff or divert water from an aquifer to lower the water table, to prevent a nuisance.
  • A corridor ditch (i.e. ditch constructed along a road or railway line) used to drain surface runoff or divert water from an aquifer to lower the water table in order to protect the road or railway line.
  • Agricultural drainage works (i.e. ditches of subsurface drain pipes) used to drain surface runoff or divert water from an aquifer to lower the water table to improve the productivity of the agricultural land.
  • Perimeter drainage works (e.g. French drains and sumps) constructed around the perimeter of a building to convey surface runoff and groundwater away from the foundation.
  • Mine drainage works, including a drainage well, used to divert groundwater to prevent interference with the operation of the mine and protect the mine.

….so long as the water is not used along the diversion flow path and does not impose risk to public safety, the environment, land or property.1

What do i need to apply?

Applications are submitted on-line via FrontCounter BC using a valid BCeID. Costs include a $250-$1,000 application fee, depending on the size and nature of the project, and water rental fees on the order of about $200/year.

The following information is required to support the application:

  • The name and contact information of the applicant and the applicant’s agent.
  • The official name of the aquifer or a description of its location.
  • The term of the approval (one or two years), the total quantity of water that will be diverted or stored for the approval term, and the maximum rate of withdrawal.
  • The periods during the year that the water will be diverted if not year-round.
  • Legal description and tenure of the land, mine or undertaking (legal description, PID, or description if the land is unsurveyed) or a description of the project or water use scheme (the appurtenancy).
  • Location (latitude and longitude or UTM coordinates) of the well(s) or the point(s) on the aquifer where you propose to withdraw the water and, if applicable, any proposed or existing storage reservoir.
  • A detailed description of the proposed works (e.g. well points, pipelines, reservoir) and a map showing their location.

How can this affect my schedule?

Procession times can vary. Currently, we are told by the Province that wait times are on the order of months. Our experience has been that they are on the order of 6 months to 1 year.

We’re here to help

Active Earth is an industry leader in groundwater management. We can prepare your application for you on your behalf, in such a way to make it easier for authorizations staff to review.

We look forward to navigating you through these requirements quickly and cost-effectively.

1 Sections 32 to 34 of the Water Sustainability Regulation, under the WSA