Water Use Plan FAQs

What are Water Use Plans?

A WUP is a technical document that defines the detailed operating parameters to be used by facility managers in their day-to-day water conveyance operations. The Plans are intended to clarify how rights to provincial water resources should be exercised and to take account of the multiple uses for those resources.

Between 1999 and 2004, BC Hydro prepared 23 Water Use Plans. The 23 WUPs were developed through a consultative, multi-stakeholder process that identified and evaluated our operations against multiple other water resource uses through a structured decision making approach. The WUP process included input from, and multiple meetings with, First Nations, local communities, stakeholders, other interested parties, municipal government, and provincial and federal regulatory agencies. The overall objective was to make recommendations to the B.C. Comptroller of Water Rights for incremental adjustments to our operations to benefit (or balance) power generation, fish, wildlife, cultural heritage, social (e.g., recreation), and other values.

What are Water Use Plan Orders?

To implement Water Use Plans, the B.C. Comptroller of Water Rights issued Orders under the provincial Water Act for balancing power production with other water uses. These Orders directed BC Hydro to undertake site-specific actions at each facility with varying combinations of:

  • Operation and water flow constraints
  • Recreation and habitat enhancement
  • Multi-year environmental monitoring studies.

Why did BC Hydro develop Water Use Plans?

  • To support BC Hydro's corporate purpose to provide reliable power, at low cost, for generations.
  • To help meet BC Hydro's objective to build and maintain public support by engaging external constituents—the public, First Nations, our regulators and our shareholder—in a dialogue about options, trade-offs and priorities in operating our hydroelectric facilities.
  • To reduce or eliminate regulatory uncertainty, through clear boundaries that take into account public values. This makes good business sense because it provides operational stability.
  • To deliver on the B.C. Government's direction to develop Water Use Plans in accordance with the provincial Water Use Plan Guidelines [PDF, 1.8 MB].

What are the principles behind Water Use Planning?

Determined by an inter-agency group, the seven founding principles are detailed in the three-page document entitled "Principles of Water Use Planning for BC Hydro" [PDF, 4.0 MB].

What are the steps involved in the Water Use Plan process?

There are 13 steps to the Water Use Plan (WUP) process outlined in the Provincial WUP Guidelines. By the end of Step 8, each consultative committee put forward recommendations which were reflected in a report.

Following that, the licensee, BC Hydro, prepared the draft water use plan, and both the consultation report and the water use plan were submitted to the Comptroller for acceptance. Once accepted, the B.C. Comptroller of Water Rights issues an order for the plan’s implementation.

Here's the list of all 13 steps:

Step 1: Initiate a WUP process for the particular facility.
Step 2: Scope the water use issues and interests.
Step 3: Determine the consultation process to be followed and initiate it.
Step 4: Confirm the issues and interests in terms of specific water use objectives.
Step 5: Gather additional information on the impacts of water flows on each objective.
Step 6: Create operating alternatives for regulating water use to meet different interests.
Step 7: Assess the trade-offs between operating alternatives in terms of the objectives.
Step 8: Determine and document the areas of consensus and disagreement.
Step 9: Prepare a draft WUP and submit it to the Comptroller for regulatory review.
Step 10: Review the draft plan and issue a provincial decision.
Step 11: Review the authorized WUP and issue a federal decision.
Step 12: Monitor compliance with the authorized WUP.
Step 13: Review the plan on a periodic ongoing basis.

Who was involved in development of the Water Use Plans?

  • The public were invited to participate
  • First Nations
  • Environmental organizations
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • The B.C. Government
  • Communities surrounding our hydroelectric facilities

How were they involved?

  • Groups consulted with BC Hydro about options, trade-offs and priorities in operating our hydroelectric facilities.
  • Interested parties were consulted in watersheds where BC Hydro operates a hydroelectric facility.
  • The Water Use Plan process strove to obtain consensus among the interested parties. The consultation reports documented both the issues of consensus, and any disagreement, and included proposed options.

What is involved with reviews of the Water Use Plan Orders?

Reviews of BC Hydro's Orders started in 2015 and continue into the early 2030s. The key goals are to:

  • Synthesise and document the outcomes of the water management constraints, physical works, monitoring programs, and other WUP elements ordered by the B.C. Comptroller of Water Rights (the Orders).
  • Understand BC Hydro's completion of the ordered activities; identify any areas where it was not possible to fully comply with the Orders and explain why.
  • Describe what remaining actions, if any, are needed to fulfill requirements of the Orders.
  • Prepare recommendations and conclusions that reflect what has been learned to date from the ordered WUP implementation.  

How can I get information?

  • For current information regarding water management practices, please contact us.
  • For information on the Water Use Plan Orders Review Program, please email wupor@bchydro.com.