Landmark vote by B.C. municipalities and First Nations re bottled water

It's time for government action. It's time to call our MLAs!

In an unprecedented move, local governments and First Nations throughout B.C. have passed a resolution calling on the B.C. government to stop issuing groundwater extraction licences to commercial water bottling operations in the province. The Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) passed the resolution on Sept 27th at their annual convention in Vancouver.


Bottled water exports from BC to the US have seen a 1460%, over the last decade, largely from extracting groundwater. This combined with a still incomplete knowledge base on groundwater levels means that blindly approving extraction licenses is putting B.Cs water at risk. 


Coupling these impacts with the effects of climate change and the need to hold close our available water supplies becomes even more clear. In 2015, 80% of watersheds in B.C. were in drought by August, and over half of them were classified as “very dry” or “extremely dry.” In the fall of 2017, 80% of watersheds were again in drought. And in 2018 – the worst wildfire season on record in British Columbia – every single watershed was in drought during the late summer. 


Meanwhile, the Forests Lands Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Ministry have continued to approve groundwater extraction licences allowing licence holders to extract exorbitant amounts of water from BC aquifers for profit, with much of that bottled water being targeted for export out of B.C.  


At a time when B.C’s groundwater is facing compounding threats from severe droughts, climate change, over-extractions, it is critical to protect our water for drinking, sanitation and local food production, not for profit. In fact, communities like Merville has stood up and demanded we put communities first and stop approving licenses for commercial bottled water extractions. The support from BC municipalities and First Nations show that the call to protect B.C’s water for future generations is echoed across the province.


UBCM Resolution:

“WHEREAS water is an essential resource upon which all life, including all ecosystems and all local communities depend, 

AND WHEREAS water is a public heritage and a public trust for present and future generations and access to water must not be compromised by commercial operations relating to commercial water bottling or commercial bulk water exports,

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Premier of British Columbia and the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development be requested to immediately cease the licensing and extraction of groundwater for commercial water bottling and/or bulk water exports from aquifers.”


Though an important victory, the effort to secure B.C.s water future is not complete. The UBCM vote invites the B.C. government to respond and stop the extraction of groundwater and export of B.C.s freshwater by for-profit water bottlers.

The decision to secure B.Cs water future is now in the provincial governments hands. Help take this next step by calling your MLA.


Blog coauthored by

Lindsay Telfer and Danielle Paydli (Canadian Freshwater Alliance), Bruce Gibbons (Merville Water Guardians), and Vi Bui (Council of Canadians).