BC budget contained good news for water protection

Good news for water

Peachland residents, Syilx people and water leaders are encouraged the provincial government has acknowledged many communities in B.C. face a water crisis, made worse by a changing climate and increased land uses.

Budget 2022 dedicates $30 million in much-needed funding to safeguard B.C.’s watersheds by supporting local and Indigenous governments and non-profits like Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance doing watershed work.

As the climate crisis continues, we are also pleased to see the government recognize the central role those resilient watersheds play in our lives by investing in much-needed floodplain mapping and outdated flood infrastructure, which will make our communities more resilient to future storms and floods.

These investments are part of the larger climate preparedness and adaptation strategy to help prepare British Columbians for the impacts of climate change. Along with the creation of the new Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship in Tuesday’s budget, the announcements are positive steps towards watershed security in B.C.

In 2021, the provincial government allocated economic stimulus funding to the Healthy Watersheds Initiative to restore threatened watersheds and wetlands so they are more resilient to climate change. The $30 million invested in Budget 2022 will allow this vital work to continue until a permanent Watersheds Security Fund can be put in place by Budget 2023.

Coree Tull, co-chair of the Watershed Security Coalition, a group of community water experts, farmers, Indigenous champions and local government representing 44 organizations and 255,000 British Columbians, said her group is thrilled that watershed security is being prioritised in communities with the $30 million commitment.

“The Watershed Security Coalition has been calling to extend the highly successful Healthy Watershed Initiative, while the Watershed Security Fund is being developed,” she said.

A poll commissioned by the Real Estate Foundation of B.C. and the University of Victoria's POLIS Waters Sustainability Project, conducted by McAllister Opinion Research, shows 78% of British Columbians hold the view B.C. needs to make major investments in watershed security to protect fresh water in this province.

The 100% volunteer-driven Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance is dedicated to ecosystem research and education, and encourages the adoption of site sensitive, ecologically based forestry practices in the public forests located in Peachland’s watersheds

Our activities include area walk and talks with water, land and tree experts, watershed clean ups, water monitoring, tree planting, restoration work, and a speaker’s series. Communicating with all levels of governments is vital. We are thrilled to see the bridge funding in this budget. It will encourage provincial and municipal governments and community groups as we work together to preserve and protect Peachland’s watershed.

"Climate change has been declared the greatest threat to global health by the World Health Organization. A United Nations report declared that environmental governance co-managed by Indigenous peoples is an effective way to safeguard nature," said Cowichan Valley Region's Medical Health Officer Dr. Shannon Waters of Stz'uminus First Nation.

"If we take care of our watersheds, they can take care of us. They need our focus and investment. After all, the ecosystem is our health system," added Waters, a Cowichan Watershed Board member and contributor to the recently released Health Canada report, Health of Canadians in a Changing Climate.

Waters was part of an independent group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders who recently published a new strategic directions paper, BC Watershed Security Fund: A Collaborative Vision.

The Sustainable Funding Working Group paper makes a number of recommendations for the development of the promised Watershed Security Fund, including that it be co-governed with Indigenous Nations.

Communities want to see a permanent and dedicated watershed fund that will support local efforts to strengthen resilience in a changing climate, and bring the province to the table as a meaningful partner.

Taryn Skalbania is the director of outreach with the Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance.

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