British Columbia developing plan to protect drinking water, ecosystems

Protection for drinking water

The British Columbia government says it is developing a strategy to protect watersheds from threats posed by climate change combined with urban and industrial development.

A new discussion paper says areas the strategy could focus on include the availability of safe drinking water, healthy ecosystems, a sufficient supply of water to support the supply of food and local economic needs, as well as reducing risks from hazards like flooding and drought.

The paper released Tuesday says a preliminary climate risk assessment completed in 2019 identified seasonal and long-term water shortages among the greatest risks, compounded by population growth and industrial activity.

The paper notes that the removal of vegetation from watersheds to allow for urban development or by industries, such as forestry and mining, can contribute to flooding and harm sources of drinking water and aquatic ecosystems.

B.C. is recovering from severe flooding and landslides last fall, which followed a summer of sweltering heat, drought and destructive wildfires.

Environment Minister George Heyman says the province is working with Indigenous Peoples, local governments and others to develop its strategy, which is scheduled to be released next year.

"As the climate crisis continues, watersheds will play an increasingly central role in our lives by providing protection from storms and floods," Heyman says in the discussion paper.

"Healthy watersheds are critical for achieving watershed security and resiliency and are the foundation of healthy communities."

The strategy would also include a fund to protect clean water.

The deadline for public comment on the discussion paper is March 18.

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