Cattle in the pasture of Okanagan ranch. Photo credit: Contributed

Livestock watering regulation changes proposed

Public input sought from public, First Nations and stakeholders

Cattle ranchers will be allowed to divert water from streams or aquifers for livestock watering without requiring authorization under the province’s Water Sustainability Act.

In the past, ranchers had to apply for a particular licensing approval for these measures, something that for cattlemen seemed like excessive bureaucratic red tape, said Kevin Boon, general manager of the BC Cattlemen’s Association headquartered in Kamloops.

“Doing this helps reduce the imprint of cattle on natural streams and protects the water, while maintaining a consistent storage source of water for cattle,” Boon said. “It prevents our cattle from getting wet feet and helps to preserve a healthy, natural environment from exposure to agricultural waste.

“It’s never gotten to a point where ranchers were diverting water for another purpose. But it really didn’t make much sense having to apply for a special water diversion license when the ability was there already to access the water. The only regulations that trump our water needs concern fish management and that has been the case for some time. We are okay with that. ”

Authorization won’t be required for an existing livestock dugout used only for water livestock provided that it was constructed prior to the regulation changes, doesn’t have a water volume of more than 2,500 cubic metres, and does not include a dam or berm with a height greater than two metres

Water storage is a critical element for ranchers as established weather patterns begin to change, Boon noted.

“Part of the best way for us to deal with climate change is to be able to manage water storage,” Boon said. “Climate change is not really a political discussion anymore. I guess it’s a bit of a head scratcher in that changes in our climate have already been occurring for millions of years.

“This is nothing new. The only real question is how we adapt to it.”

He added that various forms of agriculture land use are not what is placing greater pressure on our water supply, it is population growth which in turns places demand on the quality agriculture land that does exist to feed that growing population.

“Because of B.C. topography and mountains, about 85 per cent of the province land base is not suitable for anything other than raising livestock. And it also provides access to a lot of good, clean water so how we protect and utilize that resource will be paramount moving forward.”

The province will seek input from the public, First Nations and stakeholders as part of final recommendations submission this spring. Comments will be accepted until Feb. 16. For more information on the Water Sustainability Act changes go to https://engage.gov.bc.ca/app/uploads/sites/71/2018/01/Livestock_Watering_Regs_intentions_paper.pdf

Cattle facts

* A beef cow/calf pair requires about 45 litres of water daily

* Summer water needs of livestock grazing on Interior range land are less than one per cent of average summer precipitation

* There are about 21 million hectares of Crown range land and five million hectares of private range land in B.C.

* More than 95 per cent of livestock grazing on range lands in B.C. are cattle—other grazing livestock include sheep, goats and horses

* In 2015, there were about 200,000 head of cattle in B.C. on more than 4,000 ranches


 


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