DWWP - Frequently Asked Questions

Drinking Water & Watershed Protection - Frequently Asked Questions

This series of questions and answers provides background information about the Drinking Water and Watershed Protection (DWWP) program. After ten years of program implementation, the DWWP Action Plan has recently been updated for 2020-2030. For more details on the update process, please visit getinvolved.rdn.ca/dwwp-action-plan-update-2019.

Why do we need this Drinking Water & Watershed Protection program, isn't our water supply just fine?

Water supplies in the region are not in crisis, but there are signs that they are under stress in some areas of our region: declining water levels in wells; saltwater intrusion to groundwater; higher temperatures and lower summer flows in major streams and rivers; and, declines in winter snowpack. We have experienced worsening seasonal droughts in much of the region. Some rivers and aquifers are more vulnerable to drought conditions than others. Drought impacts can be exacerbated by excessive water use and changes in land cover that affect groundwater recharge (infiltration of water to the aquifer). Protecting water quality is a concern in both surface and groundwater sources in areas of the region.

It's important to remember that water is a finite and shared resource, and we need to be proactive in protecting it for community needs and ecosystem requirements, now and for the future.

Activity on the land - from home building to farming, road building to recreation – can impact watershed function. The Drinking Water & Watershed Protection Program is intended to provide the resources to identify and work collaboratively to address these issues at the regional level.

Increasing our understanding of how to best conserve and protect our water resources involves collecting local data and monitoring regional conditions. It involves engaging with the community and promoting stewardship.

How much does the Drinking Water and Watershed Protection program cost?

The Drinking Water & Watershed Protection Program is funded by a regional parcel tax that applies to the Electoral Areas and municipalities alike. When it was first established after the 2008 referendum, the tax was at $12 per parcel annually. When the municipalities joined, the parcel tax was reduced to $8 per parcel annually. After 10-years of implementation, with a renewed Action Plan (pending Board endorsement Dec. 2019) the parcel tax is proposed to increase again to $12, in order to resource an expanded mandate and increase in effort for the next operational period of the Program.

What do I get for my tax dollars?

The Program funding is used to hire the staff to coordinate the data gathering and planning programs under Drinking Water & Watershed Protection, as well as engage consulting professionals to assist with scientific studies and analysis. It is also used to develop education programs and provide incentive programs to promote more efficient water use; and to support non-government organizations that assist in stewardship.

The key benefits of the Drinking Water & Watershed Protection program include:

  • Assistance for residents to conserve and protect water resources through rebate and education programs.
  • Improved data collection, analysis and mapping of the Region's aquifers and waterways, and ongoing monitoring on how human activities and changing climate conditions affect them.
  • More informed decisions on how to use land and water resources, so we can maintain healthy watersheds and clean drinking water.

Who is participating in the Drinking Water and Watershed Protection program?

The 7 electoral areas and the municipalities of Nanaimo, Parksville, Lantzville and Qualicum Beach all participate in the DWWP service, to advance mutual goals for water resource protection.

Isn't water management the role of the provincial and federal governments? Why should I pay more tax for water management?

Water licensing, regulation of community drinking water systems, fisheries protection and other water management activities are the jurisdiction of the Provincial and Federal governments. However, there are many important water issues at the local level that are not addressed by senior governments.

For instance, Provincial water monitoring networks operate at a scale which overlooks many smaller creeks and streams, and often lacks sufficient spatial distribution of monitoring locations across complex aquifer systems to truly have “eyes on the resource” at the local level. Understanding water limitations and risks is necessary for local government, as the land use planning authority outside of resource lands, to inform evidence-based decisions.

Also, while various senior government agencies manage specific activities in watersheds - e.g., forestry, fisheries or mining - no one agency has the clear responsibility to look at a watershed as a whole and manage land use according to the values of that watershed. This is a key opportunity for inter-jurisdictional coordination, facilitated by the DWWP Program.

Of all levels of government, the RDN is in a good position to identify and develop responses to water issues in our region. Yet, the RDN can't do this alone. Senior government agencies are advisors to the Drinking Water and Watershed Protection Program, and we rely on their support to implement it, especially with respect to watershed management responsibilities that are shared among many agencies. The participation of member municipalities, industry and community groups also enables this cross-sector collaboration for water sustainability in the region.

In the absence of regulatory authority, the role of the RDN DWWP service is to be an advocate, convener and facilitator across jurisdictions of authority.  

With better information about the Region's water resources, the RDN is in better position to influence provincial decisions regarding water licensing, forestry, agriculture and mining activities. The RDN can work with targeted sectors on educational programs and through direct contact on specific watershed or aquifer issues.

Will the DWWP program stop development?

The purpose of the Drinking Water and Watershed Protection Program is to understand our watersheds and water resources better, to help inform decisions about future development and infrastructure. That better understanding may lead to directing future development to some parts of the Region over others or discouraging some types of development in some places over others. Its purpose is not to outright stop development - but if and where development must occur, to know whether and how it can be sustained from a water perspective.

Does this service impose rules on how I use my well?

No. There is no regulatory authority associated with the service. Groundwater regulations are the mandate of the Provincial Government. The RDN does offer rebates and initiatives to support testing and monitoring of private wells on a voluntary basis. The information generated through these programs is valuable in helping understand changes and possible threats to groundwater sources.

Further Information and Comments

If you would like more information on the Drinking Water & Watershed Protection service please email us at waterprotection [at] rdn.bc.ca or call the Regional District of Nanaimo Water Services Department at 250-390-6560 or 250-954-3792 (toll free 1-877-607-4111)

Fishing, hiking, drinking water

Looking out over the watershed

Action plan categories - Planning Science Education

Cross-section of watershed and aquifer