10/18/2013 03:41 EDT | Updated 12/18/2013 05:12 EST

New B.C. Water Act to limit industrial use of groundwater

B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak released the government's proposal for a new Water Sustainability Act on Friday, which includes widespread changes in the regulation and use of groundwater.

The proposed legislation is intended to replace the century-old Water Act, which has been heavily criticized for its alleged failure to address key sustainability questions about B.C.'s water resources, particularly groundwater.

The new regime will introduce restrictions on industrial groundwater users, which are currently not regulated in B.C., including metering and licensing requirements and new fees.

Similarly, the government will be able to limit industrial uses of groundwater during times of drought.

The changes will not impact domestic groundwater use.

The proposed legislation is the culmination of public consultations that began in 2009 and saw 2,250 written submissions by various stakeholder groups. It is expected to be tabled during the spring 2014 legislative session.

In a press release issued Friday morning, the government highlighted several other key issues they feel the Water Sustainability Act will address more effectively than its predecessor:

- Protect stream health and aquatic environments.

- Consider water in land-use decisions.

- Improve security, water use efficiency and conservation.

- Measure and report large scale water use.

- Provide for a range of governance approaches.

Members of the public are able to provide feedback on the proposal online until Nov. 14.