Water Licence - New

Water Licence - New

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This application is to apply for a water licence under the Water Sustainability Act (WSA) which if granted, permits you to divert, use or store water from a stream or groundwater from an aquifer, and to construct works.

As defined 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 water naturally occurring below the surface of the ground.

Groundwater that is used for domestic purposes is exempt from licensing and paying provincial water fees and rentals.

A water licence 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. Please review any existing water allocation notations on the source you are considering applying for. Water allocation notations may have important information regarding the availability of water for that source.

You can apply to use water for more than one water use purpose on your application. Read the 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.

Notice: Watershed Management Basins in Northeast BC

As of November 28, 2023 new guidance is available for implementing a Pilot Environmental Flow Needs approach for the Blueberry River, Upper Beatton River and Lower Sikanni Chief watershed management basins in Northeast BC. This will impact the adjudication and review of applications in the pilot watersheds.

Visit Environmental Flow Needs for more information or use the Water Use Application Report at Pilot Water Allocation Tool to investigate potential water availability before applying.

Costs and Responsibilities

Application Fee


For groundwater used for non-domestic purposes and surface water used for any purpose, fees are charged for applications for new water licences, use approvals, change approvals, as well as amendments to existing rights. Fees are also charged on applications for permits over Crown land, and are based on the size of the affected area. Read about 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.

·         Fee Refunds for Applications (PDF, 242KB)

Water Rental Fee (yearly)


There is an annual rental fee for a water licence which is based on the quantity of water authorized and on the specific water use purpose. If a Permit Over Crown Land is issued an additional yearly rental fee will also apply. Users of groundwater for domestic purposes are exempt from obtaining a licence or paying water rentals.

·         Estimate your application fees and rental rates

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

·         Applications that are processed by the BC Energy Regulator

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




·         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 water licence is granted before you can use the groundwater for other purposes.

·         As a licensee, you are responsible for the safe operation and maintenance of any works constructed under your water licence.

What you need to apply

A licence application requires several pieces of information about your water use and works (e.g., well, dugout). You can use this checklist to help assemble the information you will need.

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 water 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Estimate your crop irrigation needs using the BC Agriculture Water Calculator. The calculator estimates irrigation water for a specific location, soil type, crop type, and type of irrigation system
  • 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) 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 map or drawing that meets the requirements outlined in the Drawing Standards
  • A copy of any well report 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 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.
  • 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.
  • It is recommended that you provide a copy of the Registered Survey Plan for any parcel of land where the water is intended to be used, if you have one.
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 water licence 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 water licence.

  1. Decision

A water manager from the Province of British Columbia will decide whether to approve your application after weighing the information, and will 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.
Water Licensing and Rights Information on water licensing and rights in B.C.
Water Licenses and Approvals General guidance on water licences and use approvals in B.C.
Water Use Purposes Categories and definitions for water use purposes in B.C.
Water Application Fees, Rentals and Refunds Guidance on water application fees, water rental rates, including a water rent estimator tool, and refund policy.
Drawing Standards Water application drawing standards required for application submission.
Joint Works Agreement Information on a Joint Works Agreement--where two or more applicants need to share in the construction or maintenance of works to be jointly used under a water licence or use approval.
Water Rights Databases Tools to search for information related to water licences, water users’ communities, and permits over Crown Land.

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 for assistance with your natural resource application if required.