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Wells and Our Groundwater

 What is Groundwater?

Groundwater is a component of the water cycle; it comes from the infiltration of precipitation through voids in soil and rocks. Once these voids are effectively saturated, gravity-driven flow occurs from high groundwater elevations to lower groundwater elevations in aquifers.

Useful Links: 

Waterscape Gulf Islands: Water Underground

What is an Aquifer?

An aquifer is a water-saturated geological formation which yields significant quantities of water to wells and aquifer ecosystems such as springs, wetlands, forests, and shorelines.

Aquifers are gravity-driven flow systems where groundwater flows towards wells, lakes, springs, wetlands, and shorelines from high groundwater elevations to lower groundwater elevations. Groundwater flow velocity varies from a few centimeters to meters per year.

Understanding aquifer recharge potential and hydraulic pressure conditions provides insight to the quantity of groundwater that is sustainability available.

Groundwater conservation and well efficiency strategies help protect aquifer ecosystems and help preserve future groundwater use.

What are Groundwater Wells?

Groundwater wells provide communities, farms, businesses, and homeowners access to water stored underground in aquifers. Groundwater wells must be constructed and maintained so that the water supply is safe from pollution, and wasted water is minimized.

What is Groundwater Well Registration? 

All groundwater wells drilled after February 29, 2016 are required to be registered in the Provincial Groundwater Wells Database (GWELLS).

Owners of groundwater wells drilled prior to February 29, 2016 are strongly encouraged to register to ensure domestic purpose water rights. 

Registering groundwater wells creates a record of your water well information, to be considered in decisions for license authorization applications and groundwater preservation planning.  During times of water scarcity; registered "domestic purpose" groundwater well owners have deemed access to Essential Household Use as defined by the Water Sustainability Act.

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What is"Domestic Purpose" Groundwater Use?  

As defined in Section 2 of the Water Sustainability Act 

"Domestic Purpose" means the use of water for household purposes by the occupants of, subject to the regulations, one or more private dwellings, other than multi-family apartment buildings, including, without limitation, hotels and strata titled or cooperative buildings, located on a single parcel, including, without limitation, the following uses. 

  • drinking water, food preparation and sanitation
  • fire prevention
  • providing water to animals or poultry kept for household use or as pets;
  • irrigation of a garden not exceeding 1 000 m2 that is adjoining and occupied with a dwelling, [note that a ‘garden’ includes a lawn]

"Domestic Purpose" groundwater wells do not require water withdrawal licence; however are wells drilled after February 29, 2016 are required to be registered in the Provincial Groundwater Wells Database (GWELLS). 

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What is Non-Domestic Groundwater Licensing?

  • A License is required to lawfully use groundwater for non-domestic purposes. 
  • All non-domestic purpose groundwater well owners must apply on or before March 1, 2022.
  • A Groundwater License establishes First-in-Time, First-in-Right (FITFIR) water access.
  • Groundwater well registration is required for all new groundwater wells. 
  • Groundwater that is used for domestic purposes is exempt from licensing.

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What is the Groundwater Protection Regulation?

The Groundwater Protection Regulation (GWPR) enacted on February 29, 2016 under the Water Sustainability Act ensures that activities related to wells and groundwater are performed in an environmentally safe manner.

  • Regulates minimum standards for well construction, maintenance, deactivation and decommissioning, and
  • Recognizes the types of qualified people certified to drill wells, install well pumps and professional service providers are licensed Professional Engineers or Geoscientists with specialty in hydrogeology.

All wells are regulated under the GWPR. This includes groundwater wells for domestic purposes and non-domestic groundwater wells.

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What is Islands Trust doing to support aquifer protection and groundwater preservation? 

Wells and Groundwater Workshops – Summer 2017

During the summer, Islands Trust hosted a series of workshops to share information on wells and their impacts on groundwater, and to promote water conservation. Our partners include the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations, Vancouver Island Health Authority and Vancouver Coastal Health.

You can download the presentation in case you missed a workshop or are unable to attend. We have also included maps of each island showing the location of private wells - something we noticed is popular at the workshops. Click on the name of the island of interest to view the slide deck specific to that island: 



Page last updated: 15/04/19
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