Groundwater Protection Toolkit

The Islands Trust’s “Gulf Islands Groundwater Protection” toolkit (2014) reviews the types of aquifers that Gulf Islands residents rely on, identifies development pressures as a concern, and reviews the information available to understand groundwater issues.

* We would like to hear from you about which Groundwater Protection Toolkit guidelines the Local Trust Committee should focus on including in the OCP and LUB.

The Toolkit also enumerates the variety of regulatory tools that Local Trust Committees can use to protect groundwater resources, such as policy and regulatory changes that can be made to Official Community Plans (OCPs) and Land Use Planning Bylaws, including the establishment of development permit areas, the creation of subdivision servicing bylaws, and bylaw enforcement.

The Toolkit gives several examples of effective OCP policies for aquifer and groundwater protection (p.7):

  • Protect aquifers by establishing development permit areas that require buffer zones [around water-sensitive areas].
  • Designate aquifer protection zone(s) and development permit areas for which studies may be required.
  • Commit the Local Trust Committee (LTC) to an integrated water management planning approach that will coordinate action on the community water supply, rainwater management, green infrastructure and government regulations
  • Encourage cluster development that minimizes impervious surfaces and other impacts across the landscape.
  • Direct LTCs to encourage communities to practice water conservation and protection.

It also provides examples of effective Land Use Bylaw measures (p.7):

  • Regulate use and density of property to direct development away from groundwater-limited or aquifer recharge areas
    • Limit lot sizes to reduce density in groundwater scarce areas
    • Prohibit potentially polluting uses in areas where aquifers must be protected
    • Set standards on aspects of development that will have an impact on the water resources on the site or in an area (e.g., setbacks from riparian areas)
    • Encourage groundwater sensitive development by clustering development through rezoning and possibly utilizing density bonus provisions.
    • Leverage habitat protection or water-efficient amenities when rezoning.

As well, the Toolkit provides these examples of water-related Development Permit Area guidelines (p.9):

  • Mandate replanting and rehabilitation of disturbed areas
  • Erosion and sediment control (site specific plan)
  • Environmental impact assessments/hydrologic studies to satisfaction of the Local Trust Committee
  • Consistency between pre- and post-development hydrology
  • Vegetation as per landscape plan
  • Incorporate standards from other levels of government (e.g. Riparian Areas Regulation)
  • Limits as to the amount of impermeable surfaces
  • Specify areas that must remain clear of development.

The Toolkit provides example guidelines for rainwater harvesting in a sample Development Permit Area bylaw appendix (p.20-21):

  • Dwelling units should be sited to allow for the optimal placement of a gravity fed rainwater collection tank which collects rainwater from the roof leaders of the dwelling unit which capture the majority of the rainwater flows
  • Dwelling units should be designed to maximize opportunities for rainwater catchment from all roof surfaces
  • Impervious surfaces should be minimized. The use of impervious paved driveways shall be discouraged
  • The LTC may require that all new dwelling units include an external rainwater harvesting system such which includes the following:
  • i.    External equipment for collecting and distributing rainwater from the dwelling unit roof
  • ii.   A storage tank(s) with a minimum storage capacity of 18,000 litres which is designed for rainwater collection and is rated for potable use
  • iii.   A pumping system
  • iv. An overflow handling system
  • All external pipe, plumbing fixtures, and hose bibs where rainwater is used shall be clearly marked with “Non-Potable Water Do Not Drink”
  • Where external rainwater harvesting equipment is required as a condition of the permit, the LTC shall encourage the applicant to install dedicated plumbing lines within proposed dwelling units to make use of stored rainwater for flushing toilets and other non-potable uses.

The Toolkit also discusses the creation of Subdivision Servicing Bylaws which can:

  • establish standards for the subdivision of land that maximize infiltration of water and minimize impervious surfaces and evaluate the sustainability of new groundwater withdrawal from a specific aquifer
  • set the standards by which works and services must be constructed when land is divided into new parcels
  • set standards that support groundwater quality and supply
  • require that each proposed lot has a reliable source of potable water, and establish infiltration, drainage and permeability standards
  • direct development to mimic natural hydrology by requiring rainwater infiltration and limiting impervious surfaces
  • incorporate any existing wellhead protection area(s) that are regulated by zoning or a development permit area. (p.11-12)

Further, the Toolkit says, land development approvals that are typically based on “proof of water” evaluations “generally do not give consideration to long-term ground water consideration such as impacts of future development or cumulative impacts of developments over time in a watershed” and focus on “yield and quality of each well and not the sustainability and protection of the aquifer system as a whole.”  

Currently the Gabriola Land Use Bylaw does not have proof of water requirements for subdivision applications, so an owner applying to subdivide land must meet the provincial requirements for proof of water. If an owner of land is applying to rezone a property to a different use or density, the Local Trust Committee can require the applicant to submit a hydrology report. This information is  reviewed by Trust staff, and would need to demonstrate sufficient water to support the development and no impact on adjacent wells resulting from the development.

The Toolkit is here: