What is watershed governance? And why is it important?

Watershed governance offers an alternative to current systems of governance and planning by asking: How can those who live and work in a watershed, with their different, and sometimes conflicting, priorities, needs, and opinions, work together to share responsibility for keeping our water and surrounding lands healthy and resilient?

While the traditional role that provincial and federal governments play is still critical, new forms of local leadership involving First Nations, regional and municipal governments, and community groups are emerging across British Columbia. Watershed governance is about how these governments, communities, and water users can come together to develop plans and make decisions for the benefit of water – and everything that depends on it.

Although watershed governance can be defined in many ways depending on community needs and priorities, a number of core principles underpin the concept. These include:

  • Those impacted should have a say, including local communities, industry, and all levels of government
  • Decision-making should seek to ensure that there is enough water for nature and for people
  • The connections between freshwater systems (rivers, lakes, wetlands, aquifers) and their surrounding landscapes should be understand, as should the impacts that human activities have on these connected systems
  • There should be clear roles in watershed decision-making processes for all levels of government (local, Indigenous, provincial, and federal) and transparent opportunities for all watershed residents and users to inform those processes