Domestic Use of Water

Domestic Use of Water

Water from the streams and aquifers of British Columbia is used in thousands of residences across the province. For most water uses authorization from the province is required for the right to use the water.  This authorization is often granted as a water licence providing rights to a certain amount of water for predetermined purposes which have annual rental fees.


Licensing requirements for domestic water use

For domestic water use the Water Sustainability Act distinguishes between water from surface water sources, such as streams, and groundwater sources such as wells:


  • Groundwater used only for a domestic purpose is exempt from licensing requirements. If you have not already, you are encouraged to register your well in the provincial WELLS database.
  • For domestic use of surface water you may obtain a licence, which provides a degree of security of access to water under the province’s “First in Time, First in Right” system.
  • For domestic use of surface water you may also make use of unrecorded surface water (water is not licensed to another user or reserved for other purposes) without a licence; however, you may be required to prove that the water is unrecorded and there is no security of access to the water.

What water uses are considered domestic use?
In general, domestic water use includes providing for basic household water needs as well as water for animals and livestock used by the household (e.g. non-commercial uses or pets).  Under section 2 of the Water Sustainability Act, “domestic purpose” is defined as follows:


"domestic purpose" means the use of water for household purposes by the occupants of, subject to the regulations, one or more private dwellings, other than multi-family apartment buildings, including, without limitation, hotels and strata titled or cooperative buildings, located on a single parcel, including, without limitation, the following uses:

(a) drinking water, food preparation and sanitation;

(b) fire prevention;

(c) providing water to animals or poultry kept

(i) for household use, or

(ii) as pets;

(d) irrigation of a garden not exceeding 1,000 m2 that is adjoining and occupied with a dwelling;


Examples of water users that fall under “domestic purpose”

There may be different situations that arise which also fall into the domestic use purpose. Below are common examples that are often domestic use purpose.


  • Landowner(s) supplying water to one primary dwelling.
  • Multiple owners of a parcel of land (e.g., land title for the parcel is in joint ownership or ownership in common) who jointly own, operate and maintain the water supply system and use the water for household purposes for multiple dwellings on the parcel of land (other than multi-family buildings, such as apartment buildings, strata developments or cooperative developments). This is different from a strata-titled development where the common property of the strata corporation includes the water supply system, in which case the strata corporation or cooperative would require a licence for waterworks purpose
  • One landowner, who owns, operates and maintains the water supply system that delivers water to a private dwelling that is rented or leased to others. The owner may have multiple rental dwellings on the parcel.


To find out more about what is required or how to make an application for a water licence check out the guidance for long term water use.


For more information about household use of water that may fall under other purposes (such as “Industrial: Commercial Enterprise” or “Industrial: Camp and Public Facility”) please review the Definitions for Water Use Purposes and Categories of Water Use Purposes.


Visit our Natural Resource Online Services website to find more information on different natural resources activities and authorizations.


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