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Conserving and Restoring Our Watersheds

Watersheds provide homes for a wide diversity of plants and animals. Lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands provide humans with extensive benefits and are indispensable to supporting natural life. While many of B.C.’s watersheds are still pristine, others face increasing pressures from population growth, industrial and agricultural development.

This page explains government commitments to watershed restoration efforts. These are concentrated in areas where the demand for water is high and watersheds are under pressure from human activities.

What is the B.C government doing?

Conserving and restoring stream function

The provincial government works with the private sector and supports communities to conserve and restore stream function, for example:

  • Coordinating conservation and watershed restoration efforts through processes such as watershed-based fish sustainability planning.
  • Implementing watershed and habitat restoration projects through the $21 million Living Rivers Trust Fund, Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, and other partnerships.
  • Working closely with the federal government on restoration and protection initiatives such as Canada’s Policy for Conservation of Wild Pacific Salmon (2005).

Protecting and rehabilitating wetlands

Wetland and waterway function will be protected and rehabilitated by:

  • Continuing provincial government participation in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, Joint Ventures in B.C. and the B.C. Trust for Public Lands to secure and restore important migratory bird wetland habitat and adjacent uplands, and
  • Continuing B.C. government participation in the Wetland Stewardship Partnership and implementation of the Wetland Action Plan (2010), including:
    • Supporting an update of the Green Bylaws Toolkit for Conserving Sensitive Ecosystems (2007) in 2013-2014, developing wetland best management practices to provide guidance to landowners, land managers, local governments, developers, utility companies, businesses and industries, and agencies.
    • Piloting Wetland Ways: Interim Guidelines for Wetland Protection and Conservation in British Columbia (2009), which promote best management practices for wetlands. The guidelines will be updated in 2013-2014 based on the feedback received through piloting.
    • Development of an Environmental Mitigation Policy. The intent of the policy is to avoid, minimize, and/or offset environmental impacts associated with developments and activities on Crown land. It is currently being piloted.

Supporting specific restoration projects

    McIntyre Dam
  • The B.C. government provided $4.5 million to support the clean-up of acid rock drainage into the Tsolum River. For more information on this project visit the Tsolum River Restoration Society
  • The B.C. government will restore ecological health to 30 km of stream between Vaseux Lake and Osoyoos Lake. For more information on this project visit the Okanagan Basin Technical Working Group.
  • To enhance some watersheds, the provincial government will examine the potential of decommissioning or modifying dams.

Other watershed conservation and restoration measures are included under:

What can you do?

  • Make sure your actions don’t pollute or harm the environment. Reduce the use of hazardous products in your home and garden.
    • Reduce or eliminate the use of fertilizers and pesticides. Avoid applying them close to a well.
    • Take paints, oils, batteries and other hazardous materials to the nearest recycling or collection facility.
    • Do not pour anything but water into storm sewer grates – these sewers flow directly into waterways.
    • If you are on a septic system, make sure it is regularly maintained.
    • If you have livestock, build fences to keep the animals out of rivers streams, lakes and wetlands
    • Visit Easy actions to do for more ideas.
  • Learn about stream health and how to keep our wetlands and waterways healthy. Maintain or restore native vegetation around a wetland or along a stream that runs through your property. For ideas visit Get involved in your area.

Did you know?

  • A hectare of wetland has an estimated economic value of $5,792 to $24,330 a year – this considers all the benefits provided, including water purification, flood control, refuge for animals, and more. Source: Olewiler (2004).
  • If the approximately 40,000 hectares of the Lower Fraser Valley wetlands were valued for services provided, at the lowest estimate it would still be worth over $231 million per year!
  • Most of B.C.’s approximately 5.6% remaining wetlands are in remote areas.
  • The hundreds of thousands of streams in B.C. account for one quarter of the fresh flowing water in Canada. A few of the major B.C. rivers – the Fraser, Columbia, Stikine, Peace, Liard and Skeena – account for most of the recorded flows.
Close Tooltip Wetlands are areas where water meets the land, where the water table can be at or very near the soil surface. Some wetlands will hold water year round, while others for only a few months. They are among the most productive ecosystems on Earth, and support many different types of plant and animal species, as well as naturally filtering our water.
Close Tooltip These plans recognize that freshwater ecosystems depend on the condition of the entire watershed and that complex connections exist among fish, animals, plants and humans.