April 11,2005

BC invests $1.2M to hire specialists in protection of water resources

The British Columbia government is investing $1.2 million to hire 12 additional water specialists to focus on protection of groundwater and drinking water sources. The positions-two ground water hydrologists, four groundwater protection officers, five drinking water source protection specialists and one database administrator-will be located throughout the province.

"Our government is committed to protecting water from its source to the tap," said Bill Barisoff, Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection. "With these new specialists, together with our provincial drinking water officer and our 20 regional drinking water officers already in place, we'll have staff in every region of the province providing that source-to-tap protection."

The new water specialists will be stationed in the following communities:

* Penticton and Prince George (groundwater hydrologists).

* Nanaimo, Surrey, Kamloops, Nelson, Prince George and Victoria (groundwater officers and/or drinking water source protection specialists).

* Victoria (database administrator).

They will work closely with local government, health officials, water suppliers and the well drilling industry to further protect and manage BC's water supplies and safety. They will also assist with the implementation of BC's new groundwater protection regulations. Introduced last year, the regulations are the first of their kind in B.C, designed to protect the province's groundwater supplies. About 750,000 British Columbians get their drinking water from groundwater supplies.

Barisoff made the announcement in Kelowna during a demonstration of a pilot project using global positioning systems to pinpoint locations of surface and groundwater sources and water treatment facilities. The information will be added to the provincial database so it is available to water suppliers, local government and health officers to assist them in making water management decisions that are based on the latest science and information.

The 2005-06 budget plan committed $1.2 million towards the full year cost for the new positions. However, at this time, the government has legal authority for only six months of spending under Interim Supply. It will seek legislative approval for the full year amounts in the fall.

In related activities, Barisoff announced grants to support two initiatives aimed at development of long-term water management strategies.

The Canadian Water Resources Association (CWRA) will receive $100,000 for a pilot project designed to help local governments move towards compliance with BC's new groundwater regulations. The CWRA will also produce a guidebook that all communities can use to assist them in developing water management plans.

The Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection and Land and Water BC will also provide $30,000 to the Conference Board of Canada to support its Leaders Forum on Water Resource Management and Governance. This multi-partnered, three-year strategy will, among other things, examine the components of successful water governance models and seek out alternative technologies for increasing water use efficiencies.

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