Groundwater – Existing Use

Groundwater – Existing Use

Application information for an existing use groundwater licence, meaning your water use began on or before February 29, 2016. You are legally required to apply by March 1, 2022, as per the Water Sustainability Act (WSA). If you submit by the deadline, government will consider when you first used the water to establish your first-in-time, first-in-right (FITFIR) priority date.

Related Activities: Groundwater – New Use, Well Driller-Pump Installer Registration


About this Activity Guide

This guide summarizes the most common requirements and recommendations for your chosen activity and is designed to help you submit a complete application. Be aware that this information is for guidance purposes only.

Mandatory Authorizations

Authorization Name Link to Authorization Guidance Link to Application
Water Licence (Water Sustainability Act) Authorization Guidance Apply Now


Cost may be a specific value or range of values. The cost includes GST.

Cost Type Cost Description Cost Link to Details
Application Fee Application fees are waived for existing use groundwater applications $0 Costs and Responsibilities
Rent Postdated rent which is accrued from March 1, 2016, when the Water Sustainability Act went live to the current calendar year. Further rent is charged per year and billed on a schedule. Varies by purpose. Water Sustainability Fees, Rentals and Charges Tariff Regulation

Eligibility Requirements

Ensure that you meet the eligibility requirements prior to applying.

Requirement Description
One of the listed items must be applicable:
  • Own the land or a mine where the water will be used.
  • Be entitled to possession of land or a mine where the water will be used.
  • Have substantial interest in the land, mine or undertaking where the water will be used.
  • Hold a certificate of public convenience and necessity issued under the Public Utilities Act, the Utilities Commission Act or the Water Utility Act.
  • Apply as a municipality, regional district, improvement district development district or water users’ community.
  • Represent the government of British Columbia or Canada.
  • Represent a commission, board or person having charge of the administration of Crown land or a mine or an undertaking on Crown land, administered by British Columbia or Canada or controlled by a ministry, department, branch or other subdivision of the government of British Columbia or Canada.
  • Represent the Greater Vancouver Water District or any other water district incorporated by an Act.
  • Represent the British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority.

Information Requirements

Requirement Description Link to Details
Existing Use Water Licence Online Application An online system which requires you to enter information onscreen and upload documentation, digital files and/or maps to support your application. What You Need to Apply
Proof of Legal Right to Land Documentation that you have legal right to the land, e.g. Certificate of Title or copy of a lease.
Drawings A drawing that meets the Water Application Drawing Standards. Water Application Drawing Standards

Potential Additional Requirements

Requirement Description When is it Required?
Agent Letter Signed and dated letter providing approval for agent or consultant to act on behalf of applicant. Legal names/entities to be used on letter. When an agent or consultant will be acting on behalf of applicant.
Crown Land Tenure Authorizes the use of Crown land when a Permit Over Crown Land is not sufficient. When any of the following apply:
• The Water Use Purpose is either 'Power Commercial' or 'Power General'
• Any of the new works are considered major works (meaning for conveyance of 0.01 m3/s or more, for waterworks purpose or industrial purpose)
• Your new works include a dam higher than 9 metres or storage greater than 1,000,000 m3
• Your new works include a permanent access road, a power house or transmission lines.
Joint Works Agreement An agreement that describes how responsibilities and costs will be divided among multiple parties when sharing water lines and other water works. Information on Completing a Joint Works Agreement. If you share or are connected to another person's works, it is recommended that you draft a Joint Works Agreement.
Permit Over Crown Land (PCL) Authorizes the flooding of Crown land or the construction, maintenance or operation of works on Crown land. When your works cross or otherwise affect Crown Land in a manner that does not require a Crown Land Tenure.
Supplemental Information or Technical Reports Case-specific information required to make a decision on your application. This information supplements what you already submitted. E.g., geotechnical report, fish report, or erosion control plans, etc. When government staff ask you to provide it.
Link Description
Water Use Purposes Provides a list of available purposes for a water licence and descriptions of each purpose.
Water Sustainability Act Legislation introduced on Feb 29th, 2016 to ensure a sustainable supply of fresh, clean water that meets the needs of British Columbians.
Water Sustainability Regulation Legislation that provides more detail of the Water Sustainability Act.
Licensing Groundwater in B.C. Questions and Answers

Other Things You Should Know

Archaeology Information
Archaeological sites are protected under the Heritage Conservation Act and must not be altered or damaged without a permit issued by the Archaeology Branch. Information regarding potential risks to protected archaeological sites may be obtained by submitting an online data request form to the Archaeology Branch or by contacting a professional archaeologist via the BC Association of Professional Archaeologists ( or via local directories. Visit the Archaeology Branch website for more information.

BCeID - What Is It and Why Get It?
BCeID is an online service that allows you to create a user ID and password to sign in securely to many Government services in British Columbia. The benefits of having a BCeID account include:

  • Stop and start. Save and return later to complete your application without losing any information previously entered.
  • Real time status information. Check the status of your application in real time.
  • Access your applications for multiple people (Business BCeID only) to edit or submit your application or check its status. To enroll in this service, visit the BCeID web page: FrontCounter BC - BCeID

Consulting with First Nations
The Province is legally obligated to consult and accommodate First Nations, where required, on land and resource decisions that could impact their Aboriginal Interests. While the Province is responsible for ensuring adequate and appropriate consultation and accommodation, it may involve the proponent in the procedural aspects of consultation. Also, proponents are generally encouraged to engage with First Nations as early as possible in the planning stages to build relationships and for information sharing purposes that may support consultation processes. More information is available in the following guidelines and procedure manuals designed to assist government officials and proponents with meeting consultation obligations with First Nations. For further assistance, please contact the appropriate decision making agency.

Legal Disclaimer
This guide provides the most current and accurate information available to the Government of British Columbia at the time of publishing; however, we make no warranty regarding the completeness, currency or accuracy of this information. This information is for guidance purposes only and does not replace legislated requirements. Each application is unique and circumstances may result in additional requirements beyond those included in this guide.

Last Updated: March 11, 2018