Change Approval For Changes In And About A Stream - New

Change Approval For Changes In And About A Stream - New

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Under the Water Sustainability Act (WSA), "changes in and about a stream" means:

  • Any modification to the nature of the stream, including any modification of the land, vegetation and natural environment of a stream or the flow of water in a stream, or
  • Any activity or construction within a stream channel that has or may have an impact on a stream or stream channel.

Under the Water Sustainability Act (WSA), "stream" means:

  • a natural watercourse, including a natural glacier course, or a natural body of water, whether or not the stream channel of the stream has been modified, or
  • a natural source of water supply,

including, without limitation, a lake, pond, river, creek, spring, ravine, gulch, wetland or glacier, whether or not usually containing water, including ice, but does not include an aquifer;

"stream channel", in relation to a stream, means the bed of the stream and the banks of the stream, both above and below the natural boundary and whether or not the channel has been modified, and includes side channels of the stream;

Change Approvals

A change approval is a written authorization to make changes in and about a stream. You do not require a change approval if the changes are associated with construction of works that are authorized in a water licence. Change approvals are granted with terms and conditions attached. The terms and conditions may relate to the time of year in which you may undertake the work or other measures that protect the aquatic ecosystem, the hydraulic integrity of the stream channel and the rights of water users and landowners downstream.

Regional Terms and Conditions and Timing Windows

The authority to work in and about a stream, either through a change approval or notification, is generally granted with terms and conditions attached. Terms and conditions vary from region to region, and work in each region is generally restricted to specific times of the year called regional timing windows.

If you are granted a change approval, terms and conditions will be specified as part of your approval.

If you are submitting a notification of instream work, you must comply with the terms and conditions in your region as well as any terms and conditions specified by the habitat officer.

Terms and conditions and timing windows for your region can be found here.

NOTE: Marine/saltwater is not included within the definition of a "stream" or a "stream channel" under the Water Sustainability Act.

Costs and Responsibilities

Change Approvals

You will be charged an application fee when you apply for a change approval. If the works cross Crown land you may require a permit, for which a separate fee is charged. Fees are calculated automatically as you complete the online application. Read about the Water Application Fees and Rentals and estimate your costs.

Fees can be paid online at the time of application, or at a FrontCounter BC location. See Payment Guidelines for more information.

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

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 stream where changes in and about a stream are proposed or a location description for the stream
  • Location description for the land or undertaking, if any, to which the change approval is to be appurtenant
  • A start date and end date for the proposed work. You must confirm that your works will be carried out within the approved regional timing window. If your proposed work will not fall within the regional timing window, you must provide a detailed explanation and reasoning
  • Details of the activities and proposed works
  • Written consent from the landowner, if different than the applicant, for the use of the land for any works or construction of any works
  • Contact information for site supervision and construction

Multi-Site Applications:

The Changes In and About a Stream application allows the submission of multiple locations when appropriate. It is preferrable that the application is submitted as a single site application; however, each situation is different, so we recommend contacting FrontCounter BC to discuss your project in advance.

When preparing a multi-site application, please consider the following:

  • All locations and activities/works should be associated with the same project or initiative.
  • All sites should be within the same geographical area (i.e. municipality, watershed, source) and no more than 20 sites included per application. More than this should be confirmed in advance.
  • Create a separate location for each site on the application form (Location of Works section).
  • Include a general location map showing each of the sites. These sites should all fit on one map. Reference each site, cross-referencing the Site IDs listed on the application form.
  • Include a site-specific map created for each site that is labeled matching the Site IDs listed on the application form. These can be displayed on the same map if nearby and meeting the Drawing Standards.
  • Project descriptions should be site-specific, do not copy and paste the same information for each site if there are different considerations.
  • A digital spatial file showing all of the sites may be requested. If you have this, please provide it with your application.


  • A map or drawing that meets the Drawing Standards and clearly shows all of the following features:
    • The location of the existing or proposed works
    • The location of the proposed changes
    • The legal boundaries of the land where the changes will be located
    • The legal boundaries of any land physically affected by the changes or the works
    • The location of the stream and the direction of flow
  • A copy of your letter of agency or other proof of authorization if you are an agent or third party filling out the application on behalf of the applicant.
  • A copy of any permit, tenure or other authorization to use Crown land relevant to the locations of the changes, or proof that an application for the appropriate Crown land authorization has been made. If you have not already applied for a Crown land authorization, you will complete the application as part of the change approval application process.
  • 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 change 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 for Applications.

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 for change approvals 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 will be made for the consideration of a statutory decision maker, normally a Water Manager, who is authorized under legislation to grant a change approval.

  1. Decision

A water manager from the Ministry of Forests will weigh the information, decide whether to approve your application, and inform you of the decision.

Link Description
Water Sustainability Act The Water Sustainability Act is the principal law for managing the diversion and use of water resources in B.C.
Water Sustainability Act - Regulations The Water Sustainability Act (WSA) regulations provide details about how the general principles in the WSA are to be applied in B.C.
Water Policies Policies have been developed under the current Water Sustainability Act and informed by other provincial legislation to help guide the management of B.C.’s water resource.
Mapping Tools A listing of free B.C. web-based mapping programs and tools available to the public.
Working Around Water Guidance on making a change in and about a stream and more information on instream best practices.
Change Approval and Notification Information More information on applying for a change approval or submitting a notification of instream work.
A User's Guide for Changes In and About a Stream in B.C. General guidance on how to consider the Water Sustainability Act in planning for changes in and about a stream in B.C.
Requirements and Best Management Practices for Making Changes In and About a Stream in B.C. Guidance on making a change in and about a stream and best management practices to consider when designing projects.
Water Application Fees, Rentals and Refunds Guidance on water application fees, water rental rates, including a water rent estimator tool, and refund policy.
Terms, Conditions, and Timing Windows – Regional and Federal Guidance on when you can carry out your works in and about a stream, including regional timing windows and Federal regulations.
Federal Authorizations - Works on navigable waters in Canada To address the parts of your proposal that may apply to the Federal Navigable Waters Protection Act.
Federal Authorizations - Migratory Birds Regulation To address the parts of your proposal that may apply to the Migratory Birds Regulation.
Federal Authorizations - Department of Fisheries and Oceans To address the parts of your proposal that may apply to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans assessments for projects near water.
Drawing Standards Water application drawing standards required for application submission.

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, reopen, 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.