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Reports and Publications

Glossary of Terms


Changing behaviour to adjust to the predicted changes in the natural environment due to climate change. “Adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities” (IPCC).

Aquatic Ecosystem

An aquatic ecosystem refers to a community of organisms (bugs, plants, wildlife, surroundings) that live in water and are dependent on each other for survival.


An underground layer of permeable rock, sediment (usually sand or gravel), or soil where groundwater is stored. Aquifers are connected to other aquifers and surface water bodies and can occur at various depths.

Changes in and about a stream

Any modification to a stream including the land, vegetation, natural environment or flow of water within a stream, or any activity or construction within the stream channel that has or may have an impact on a stream. (Source: Water Act)


An embankment, wall, fill, piling, pump, gate, floodbox, pipe, sluice, culvert, canal, ditch, drain or any other thing that is constructed, assembled or installed to prevent the flooding of land. (Source: Dike Maintenance Act)

Domestic purpose

The use of water for household requirements, sanitation and fire prevention, the watering of domestic animals and poultry and the irrigation of a garden …]. (Source: Water Act)

Efficiency vs. Conservation

Efficiency is a means, and conservation an end. In most cases, efficiency will allow for some conservation, but it may also serve as permission to consume. Take, for example, lawn watering: significant efficiency gains are possible with the use of low-flow sprinklers, but with more and more lawns to water, such measures simply amount to a “better way” of doing something we should not be doing in the first place. A water conservation approach questions the underlying assumption that turf-grass is the only good and desirable form of landscaping, and by doing so, opens the door to creating landscapes that require only minimal irrigation or none at all. A comprehensive approach then combines efficiency and conservation to initiate a shift in both practice and behaviour (from: Thinking Beyond Pipes and Pumps: Top 10 Ways Communities Can Save Water and Money. October 2006).


The wearing away, by water, of the banks or bed of a stream or of the materials used in any works. (Source: Water Regulation)

Green Infrastructure

An interconnected network of green space that conserves natural ecosystem values and functions and provides associated benefits to human populations.

Hydro electricity

The creation of electricity (power) using water. Usually water is stored in large dams and lakes and then flow is controlled through dams which have turbines which turn, creating electricity.


An underlying base or foundation especially for an organization or system. The basic facilities, services, and installations needed for the functioning of a community or society, such as transportation and communications systems, water and power lines, and public institutions including schools, post offices, and prisons.

Water flow requirement flow

Water flow requirement flow refers to the amount of water that nature (fish, wildlife, streams) needs in a water body so that it can function properly. Water flow requirement needs relate to adequate water flow, water quality, riparian margins and water temperature.

Licence under the Water Act

A licence entitles its holder to do the following in a manner provided in the licence:

  1. divert and use beneficially, for the purpose and during, or within the time stipulated, the quantity of water specified in the licence;
  2. store water;
  3. construct, maintain and operate the works authorized under the licence and necessary for the proper diversion, storage, carriage, distribution and use of the water or the power produced from it;
  4. alter or improve a stream or channel for any purpose; and
  5. construct fences, screens and fish or game guards across streams for the purpose of conserving fish or wildlife. (Source: Guide for Waterpower Projects)


In the context of climate change, a human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases. Examples include: using fossil fuels more efficiently for industrial processes or electricity generation, switching from oil to natural gas as a heating fuel, improving the insulation of buildings, and expanding forests and other "sinks" to remove greater amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. (UNFCC)

Potable water

Water provided by a domestic water system that meets the standards prescribed by regulation, and is safe to drink and fit for domestic purposes without further treatment. (Source: Drinking Water Protection Act)

Riparian Zone

The riparian zone is the area between the land and a surface water body. Plants alongside the banks of the water body are called riparian vegetation and are important for the health of the stream and to stop bank erosion.

Surface Water

Surface water is the water that runs over or sits on the land. This includes lakes, rivers, streams, creeks and ponds. It is usually fresh water and it is not stored in the ground. Surface water use is regulated by the province through the Water Act.


The region or area of land that drains into a river, river system, or other body of water. Watersheds are divided by mountains or hill ridges.

Water Stewardship

Water stewardship is an ethic by which British Columbians care for, and are responsible for, the sustainability of our water resource and aquatic ecosystems.

The following glossary provides the meaning of technical terms used in B.C. government Acts, regulations and guides for water use and planning.

Well recharge zone

The area of land in which water collects and percolates into an aquifer and is transmitted from there into one or more other wells or streams.


Wetlands refer to a body of land saturated by water and include swamps, marshes and bogs. Wetlands are the interface between land and aquatic ecosystems and usually support diverse forms of life and provide significant benefits to the environment.