Further to Water Restriction Advocacy - Response Received from BC Government

By Jerry Rousseau

Last August, about one hundred golf courses in the South Coast region received a request from the British Columbia Ministry of Forests asking to voluntarily reduce diversion, storage or use of non-domestic ground and surface water by 50% of the licenced volume and to limit/restrict lawn, garden and fairway watering to putting greens only.

In a March 29th letter sent to the BC Ministry of Forests, the umbrella group representing golf in British Columbia, the Allied Golf Association of BC (AGA-BC), began advocacy efforts in hopes of learning more about the province’s decision making and implementation process, to help ensure decision makers understand the benefits of golf courses and turf, to outline golf industry efforts toward water conservation and offer assistance with future province wide conservation strategies such as the use of approved water management plans.

On April 19, a response was received from Emily Elsiger, Assistant Water Manager for the BC Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship.  Key statements by Ms. Elsiger provided some interesting insight into this unprecedented action by the province:

Last summer we sent voluntary reduction letters to approximately 100 golf courses in the South Coast Region. This included licensed, unlicensed (unauthorized) and golf courses irrigated with municipally supplied water. Golf courses using municipal supply would be subject to bylaws enforced by the local government. Unauthorized water users are not legally allowed to divert and use water. Any golf course without a license or an application in with the Ministry is in contravention of the Water Sustainability Act and must immediately stop diverting and using water.”

“In response to the approximately 100 letters sent out, we only heard from four golf courses indicating their efforts to reduce water use during periods of drought. These golf courses indicated that they restricted watering to putting greens and reduced watering of fairways, and one installed a more efficient irrigation system. We did not engage with the BC Golf Industry before sending voluntary reduction letters.”

Other water users received similar letters from the province last summer.  Stakeholders, such as the BC Landscape Nursery Association, are now undertaking their own advocacy efforts with closely aligned messaging.  Meanwhile, further dialogue with the Ministry is being worked on by AGA-BC to ensure golf is at the table and part of both the decision making and solution generating processes.