BC’s Water Sustainability Act

As part of the SSHRC-funded WEPGN: Water Economics Policy and Governance Network project on First Nations and the shifting water governance landscape of British Columbia, and NSERC-funded RES’EAU-WaterNET: Small Water System Strategic Network project on Improving the governance capacity of small and First Nations communities, the Program on Water Governance began a new study in 2014, exploring the role of the BC Water Act Modernization in transforming water governance in BC. This study focuses in particular on the challenges and opportunities created through the intersection between water law reform and the governance histories and initiatives of small and First Nation communities.

[Further project details to come]

For more information please contact: kiely [dot] mcfarlane [at] ubc [dot] ca

Resources on the Water Sustainability Act

Program on Water Governance:

This policy brief summarizes the results of an analysis of the large-scale consultation process undertaken for British Columbia’s Water Act Modernization (2008-2013). Submissions were analysed from the three stages of consultation that informed the development of the Water Sustainability Act (2014), to explore variability in the policy preferences of submitter groups, and compare those preferences with policy outcomes in the Act. The results of this analysis indicate uneven alignment between policy outcomes and the policy preferences of different groups. Submitter perspectives on the consultation process were also analysed, highlighting key ways in which the consultative process could be improved.

Public consultation has become an increasingly common form of democratic engagement. While critics have challenged the potential for public consultation to democratize policy-making due to existing power structures, few studies have undertaken a systematic evaluation of the policy outcomes of consultation. This study combines qualitative and quantitative techniques to systematically analyze participants’ responses to policy proposals, and compare those responses with resulting policies. We utilized this approach to examine the large-scale public consultation process that informed the development of British Columbia’s new Water Sustainability Act (2014). Our analysis revealed: (1) barriers to effectual engagement, particularly for First Nations; (2) statistical differences in policy preferences between industry and nonindustry groups; and (3) patterns in how these preferences align with policy outcomes, suggesting uneven participant influence on policy-making. This study highlights the importance of analyzing consultation outcomes alongside process design, and the need to assess consultation’s fairness and effectiveness by examining its outcomes for different participant groups.

An open-access version of this paper is available here.

Ministry of Environment documents (in order of publication):

Commentaries and position statements: