The way it looks to David Slade, a water-well driller with 50 years of experience, some 15,000 British Columbia groundwater users are going to become criminals overnight next March.
“That certainly seems to be the trajectory we’re on now,” said Slade, who is based on Vancouver Island and is a past president of the B.C. Groundwater Association.
Existing users of groundwater — generally from wells or dugouts — for agriculture, industry or business have until March 1 to get licences. So far, fewer than one-quarter of the affected water users have applied. People using well water for household use are exempt from the requirement but are encouraged to register their wells to help government manage the resource.
“I don’t know if it’s willful ignorance, or just people are ignoring it in hopes it will go away,” Slade said.
Former civil servants and others with knowledge of the situation are warning that few people are aware there is a crunch coming that could have severe consequences for water users, food security and the wider economy.
Even people like Slade who believe the change is badly needed say the government has bungled its implementation.
“I think there’s a lot of frustration all around, and it’s because the government, in my mind, hasn’t taken this file seriously,” said Slade. “It’s a big story but it hasn’t gotten much traction. It’s going to be a big story.”
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