Use Approval - New

Use Approval - New

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This application is to apply for a use approval under the Water Sustainability Act (WSA) which, if granted, permits you to divert and use surface water from a stream or groundwater from an aquifer, and to construct works, for a term not exceeding 24 months.

Stream and aquifer are defined terms in the WSA. A stream includes a natural watercourse, a natural body of water, or source of water supply and a lake, pond, river, creek, spring, ravine, gulch, wetland, or glacier. An aquifer means a geological formation containing, or capable of containing, groundwater. Groundwater is defined as water naturally occurring below the surface of the ground.

A use approval specifies the water source, the water use purpose, the maximum quantity of water that may be used, and the works associated with the water use, as well as where the water can be used. Water use may be restricted to certain times of the year.

You can apply to use water for more than one water use purpose on your application. Read the list of Water Use Purposes to see which one(s) you should apply for.

If your well or proposed works will occupy Crown land you will be required to provide proof that an authorization for that use of Crown land has been granted, or an application for an authorization to use Crown land has been made. Authorization can be in the form of a Permit Over Crown Land, or a more formal tenure under the Land Act. Tenure under the Land Act is normally required for larger projects such as waterpower or waterworks. If you require a Crown Land authorization, but do not already have one, you will be prompted to apply for a permit or tenure as part of the water licence application process.

Costs and Responsibilities

The use approval application fee is based on the purpose and the quantity of the water being applied for, as well as a one- or two-year rental term. Fees are calculated automatically as you complete the online application. Read about Water Application Fees and Rentals and estimate your costs

Payment of the application fee and rental fee is required at the time of submission of your application. Payment can be made by one of the following payment methods:

  • Online via Credit Card (Visa, Visa-Debit, Master Card, American Express) - Credit card payments are securely processed during the final step of the online application process.
  • Mail Payment Cheque/Money Order - Payable to Minister of Finance
  • Cash/Debit - To be paid at one of the FrontCounter BC office locations

Most application fees are non-refundable. Check the refund policy for more information.

Water Rental Fee (yearly)

Water rental fees for use approvals are based on one year or two years of use, and are payable at the time you submit your application.

If you require a Permit over Crown Land, an additional yearly rental fee will apply.

Application fees and annual rentals are not required from:

  • Provincial or Federal Ministries
  • First Nations using water on reserve land
  • Nisga'a citizen or entities applying to use water from the Nisga'a Water Reservation
  • Use Approvals that are processed by the BC Oil and Gas Commission

Exemption to use of water on Treaty land is also possible. Individual Treaty Agreements will be referenced when determining exemptions.


  • For use of surface water, you may not use water or construct works after submitting your use approval application. You must wait until your application is approved and you are granted a use approval before you use water or construct works.
  • For use of groundwater, the WSA allows you to construct a well for the purpose of testing the quality or quantity of water or conducting a flow test; however, you must wait until your application is approved and a use approval is granted before you can use the groundwater for other purposes.
As a holder of a use approval, you are responsible for the safe operation and maintenance of any works constructed under your water licence.

What you need to apply

To complete the application, you need the following:


  • The name and contact information of the applicant and the applicant's agent, if applicable. If there are co-applicants for the licence, a BCeID is required in order to complete and submit the application. Obtain the BCeID before starting your water licence application as you will not be able to save your application without it.
  • The official name of the water source(s) (stream or aquifer) or a description of the location of the source(s).
  • If the application relates to water in a stream, the official name of the stream to which a proposed source of the water discharges or is immediately tributary or a location description for that stream.
  • If the application relates to water in an aquifer, the name of each stream or other aquifer known to the applicant to be reasonably likely to be hydraulically connected to the source aquifer, or if there is no official name for the stream or aquifer, a location description for that stream or aquifer.
  • If water is to be stored in a reservoir, the official name of the reservoir, if known, or a location description of the reservoir. Note that a use approval cannot authorize water storage by a dam to which Part 2 of the Dam Safety Regulation applies, unless the dam is authorized by a water licence.
  • The purpose(s) for which the water will be used and the quantity of water that will be diverted or stored for each water use purpose. You can read the list of Water Use Purposes.
  • The term of the approval (one or two years), the total quantity of water that will be diverted or stored for the approval term, and the maximum rate of withdrawal. Use the online unit conversion tool if you need to convert your units of measurement to match the water quantity units accepted on the application.
  • If the water will be used for a power purpose, the amount of power that will be generated.
  • If the water will be used for irrigation water use purpose, the area of land that will be irrigated.
  • The periods during the year that the water will be diverted if not year-round
  • Legal description and tenure of the land, mine or undertaking where the water is to be used (legal description, PID, or description if the land is unsurveyed) or a description of the project or water use scheme (the appurtenancy).
  • Legal land description and land tenure for all lands on which you propose to construct works or flood (legal description, PID, or description if the land is unsurveyed).
  • The applicant's title to or interest in the appurtenancy and the name of the owner(s) of any land not owned by the applicant;
  • Location (latitude and longitude or UTM coordinates) of the well(s) or the point(s) on the source where you propose to withdraw the water and, if applicable, any proposed or existing storage reservoir.
  • A detailed description of the proposed works (e.g. diversion structures, pumps, pipelines, irrigation system, reservoir).
  • If the works includes one or more wells, details of the well(s) including well depth and well identification plate number or well tag number if available.
  • If water is to be stored by a dam, details of the dam's height, length, crest width and maximum storage volume.
  • Written consent from every person on the land title/land tenure where you propose to use the water (i.e., co-applicants), or to whom a licence may be issued, and written consent from each person in the application for disclosure of their personal information that is included in the application. A consent form with the appropriate details will be generated for you by the online application system. Consent can be given in writing by signing the form or electronically by e-mail.


  • A copy of any well reports for any well that forms part of the works subject to the application. Well reports may include well construction reports, flow test reports, well identification reports, reports on alternative specifications prepared by a professional or any other reports prepared in relation to the well.
  • A map or drawing that meets the requirements outlined in the Application Drawing Standards.
  • It is recommended that you provide a topographical map showing the general location of the property where the water is proposed to be used and the works constructed in relation to nearby communities, highways, railways and other water sources.
  • A copy of your lease, if you have privately leased the land where you want to use the water.
  • A copy of any permit, tenure or other authorization to use Crown land relevant to the locations of the water diversion and use, or proof that an application for the appropriate Crown land authorization has been made.
  • A copy of your Letter of Agency or other proof of authorization if you are completing the application on behalf of the applicant.
  • If you share or are connected to another person's works, it is recommended that a Joint Works Agreement outlining each party's role and responsibilities be completed.

A detailed list of information requirements can be found in the Water Sustainability Regulation.

What happens after you apply

Your application will go through the following process before any decision is made about whether the use approval will be granted.

  1. Receiving the application

When Natural Resource applications are submitted, it is expected that they meet the posted application requirements for that application type, both in quality and completeness, so that the proposal is ready to move towards a decision in a timely manner. The application requirements can be found under the applicable water application authorization guidance.

Poor quality or incomplete applications can result in substantial delays and create significant workload impacts to ministry staff. In order to improve application turnaround times, applicants are required to provide missing information or respond to FrontCounter BC staff requests within 2 weeks.

If applicants are not able to meet the requested timeframe, they should inform the requesting staff member as early as possible. Applications not meeting application requirements within the requested timeframes may be rejected. The applicant may be entitled to a partial refund of the application fee, however, in many circumstances, no refund will be provided. For further information, please refer to the Fee Refunds Policy.

If the application is returned or not accepted, applicants can expect a detailed explanation of application deficiencies. If an application is rejected due to deficiencies, applicants may re apply at their convenience.

  1. Consultations & Referrals

Applications may be referred to other provincial and federal regulatory agencies for comment during the adjudication process. Consultation with First Nations, other water users, community groups or other parties may be required if existing rights could be affected by your application.

  1. Review

Once FrontCounter BC has received all comments and objections from potentially affected parties, and any additional information provided by you or affected parties, applications undergo a technical review. During the technical review process you may be asked to provide additional information or may be required to undertake further study to support your application. On the basis of this review, a recommendation is made for the consideration of a statutory decision maker, normally a Water Manager, who is authorized under legislation to grant a use approval.

  1. Decision

A water manager from Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations will decide whether to approve your application after weighing the information, and will inform you of the decision.

Water Sustainability Regulation
Water Sustainability Regulation Amendment
Water Licensing and Rights
Use Approvals
Water Use Purposes
Water Application Fees, Rentals, and Refunds
Estimate your application fees and rental rates
Drawing Standards
Joint Works Agreement
Water Rights Database

Tips for a successful application

Follow these tips to make the application process easier:

1.    Review this guide and have all the information and documents ready before you start filling out the application.

2.    Use a Basic, Personal or Business BCeID for your application. A BCeID is easy to get and allows you to save your application, reopen it, and check the status of your application online. Applications will automatically time-out after a certain period of inactivity if not saved.

3.    Contact FrontCounter BC before you begin, to help you with all natural resource applications.