>> Health and Safety>> Water Supply>> Water Systems>> On-Site Sewage Disposal>> Ground Water Table Elevation and Percolation Tests>> Community Sewer Systems>> Natural Hazard Identification>> Geotechnical Study>> Flooding>> Threat of Wildfire>> Contaminated Sites
Evaluating for health and safety happens both within the Ministry of
Transportation and Infrastructure and through referral agencies, particularly the regional
Health Authority. Assessing potential risks and obstacles such as water
supply, sewage disposal or natural hazards protects the applicant, the public
and the regulatory authorities from costly mistakes.
Regardless of parcel size, assurance of an adequate supply of potable water suitable for the proposed
land use is required.
Water may be supplied from:
- individual surface sources
- individual wells on site
- new water system
- extension of an existing water system
If there is no subdivision bylaw regulating proof of water supply,
the Approving Officer may require proof of 2500 litres per day per dwelling
unit, as well as a statement from a laboratory regarding the water's
If there is a subdivision bylaw regulating proof of water supply, the
proposed subdivision must comply with it. In general, the local government
determines whether the proof of water supply requirements has been met.
(See "Water Systems") The local government may also specify
that ‘fire flows’ be provided in water supply systems.
For further information on Water Supply
requirements, see the Drinking Water Protection Act and
Regulation BC Reg, 200/2003 [effective November 1, 2005]and the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality. You
may also wish to contact local government and the local Health Authority
for their guidelines on potable water
The Approving Officer may require the provision of water in proposed
subdivisions regardless of parcel sizes.
Water systems serving two or more residences are water supply systems
as defined by the Drinking
Water Protection Act. They require a Construction Permit issued
by a Public Health Engineer of the Regional Health Authority. They also
require an Operating Permit issued by the Regional Health Authority's Drinking Water Officer.
Water systems serving five lots or more are water utilities
as defined by the Water Utility Act.
Where such systems
are involved, the applicant must submit the following to the District
Transportation Office before final approval of the subdivision plan:
- A letter from the Ministry of Environment, Utility Regulation Section, Water Management Branch stating that the water system has
been installed to acceptable standards and confirmation that ‘as built’
drawings have been approved by the Comptroller of Water
- An amendment to the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN)
is required if an extension to an existing water system is proposed
to be constructed. Sometimes the CPCN covers a larger area than is presently served so an amendment is not required. For new community water systems, a new Certificate
of Public Convenience and Necessity is required
Usually proof of an adequate supply of potable water is a requirement in the local government's Subdivision
On-Site Sewage Disposal
The Regional Health Authority must be referred to for recommendations regarding all subdivisions in which
the minimum lot size is less than two hectares. When considering subdivision
proposals with on-site sewage disposal, such as septic tanks, the Medical
Health Officer requires that percolation and ground water table tests
be performed. The Medical Health Officer or his/her designate must be
invited to these tests.
A review by the local Environmental Health Officer or Public Health
Inspector may still be required for lots exceeding two hectares if the
Approving Officer deems it necessary.
The Approving Officer
may not require on-site sewage disposal systems to be constructed prior
to plan approval. However, a Discharge Permit from the Environmental
Management Section of the Ministry of Environment
is required if either of the following is true:
- The anticipated sewage discharge exceeds 25,000 litres per day
- The intended land use is not “domestic”
Ground Water Table Elevation and Percolation Tests
Sewage Disposal may be served with individual on-site systems, a new sewage system or extension of an existing system. A soil assessment ensures that on-site disposal is feasible. The Environmental
Health Officer of the applicable local office of the Regional Health Authority applies the requirements of the Local Services Act Sewage Disposal
Regulations when determining if a proposed parcel can accommodate
on-site sewage disposal.
The "ground water table elevation test"
is an important part of these Regulations. If the tile field is in water,
aerobic bacteria cannot function, and the efficiency of the septic tank
system is reduced. If the water is flowing, it may carry the effluent
to a highway ditch or to some other property's source of domestic water.
Section 1 of the Sewage Disposal Regulations Site Investigation
Schedule states that subsurface ground conditions in the area of the
absorption field should be determined by doing the following:
- Digging or boring a representative number of
holes to a minimum depth as required by Environmental Health Officer
- Reporting the conditions found
- Leaving the excavated material for inspection
- Covering the test holes
In areas without sewage systems, water
should soak into the soil at a certain rate. The "percolation (perc)
test" indicates how fast this occurs.
You may have to delay completion of these tests depending on the season.
Applicants should submit the test results
to the District Transportation Office with the subdivision application. The District Development Technician will then
forward the test results with a copy of the plan to the local
office of the Regional Health Authority for comments and recommendation. If the test results are not submitted with the application, the review will continue but preliminary approval may not be given before the soil tests are complete.
Community Sewer Systems
If a community sewer system operated by an Improvement District or
Regional District will serve the proposed subdivision, the referring
officer will refer the application to the Improvement or Regional District,
stating that suitable arrangements for the installation of the sewer
system have been completed.
The applicant must submit a letter to the
District Transportation Office before final approval of the subdivision
A private company may operate a community sewer system. In this case,
a permit from the Environmental Management Section of the Ministry of
Environment is required. Before final approval of
the subdivision plan, the developer must install the sewer system and
provide a certificate from a Professional Engineer stating that the
system is designed and constructed to an acceptable standard pursuant
to B.C. Regulation 129/99, Environmental Management Act Municipal Sewage
Natural Hazards Identification
It is most important that natural hazards be identified on land that
is about to be subdivided. Such hazards include:
- Rock fall
- Debris torrent
If these are confirmed by a review, the subdivision may be refused unless the potential hazard can be mitigated.
District Development Technicians may identify natural hazard potential. When a potential risk is identified,
you may be required to retain a certified professional to provide a
report to the Approving Officer.
Pursuant to Section 86 of the Land
Title Act, the Approving Officer
may refuse to approve the subdivision plan if he or she considers that the
land in question may be subject to a natural hazard. Similar provisions
apply under the Strata
Property Act and the Bare Land Strata
Regulations BC Reg. 75/78.
You can learn more about natural hazard identification through the Ministry of Transportation And Infrastructure publication Natural Hazards in BC.
If an Initial Study Is Needed...
If there is no existing study of the area but one is required, the
District Development Technician, at the direction of the Approving Officer,
sends the applicant a letter asking for an initial geotechnical study.
If a Site-Specific Study Is Needed...
If a blanket study of the area has been done and shows evidence of
natural hazards, the District Development Technician, at the direction
of the Approving Officer, sends the applicant a letter of preliminary
non-approval suggesting that a qualified Professional Engineer be hired
to do a site-specific study. If the blanket study is a public document,
it should be referred to in the letter.
Outcome of the Study
After receiving the letter from the District Development Technician, the
applicant may engage a qualified Professional Engineer to do a geotechnical
study of the site. Its goals would be to:
- Determine if there is a hazard
- Determine extent of any hazard
- Identify building sites free from hazard, or where risk could be rendered acceptable
Local governments have flood-related bylaws and flood-plain mapping. You
may contact the LG directly, or talk to your District Development Technician
if you plan to subdivide near a body of water.
Pursuant to Section 86 of the Land Title Act, the Approving Officer
may refuse to approve the subdivision plan if he or she considers that the
land in question may be subject to a hazard of flooding. Similar provisions
are available under the Strata Property Act and the Bare Land Strata
Regulations BC Reg. 75/78.
In order to properly assess the potential for flooding, the Approving Officer
may require the applicant to provide an engineering report certifying that
the land may be used safely for the intended purposes and/or to identify possible
If it is deemed necessary to mitigate the hazard through the construction of a dike(s), the applicant will be required to comply with the provisions of the Dike Maintenance Act and the following:
- Hire a suitably qualified consulting professional engineer to design the works to meet provincial standards and to prepare an Operations and Maintenance Manual.
- Obtain agreement from the local government to become the Diking Authority and assume ownership and maintenance responsibilities for the dike.
- Provide adequate land, or statutory rights of way, to the local government to allow legal access for personel and equipment to inspect and maintain the dike
- Prior to construction, obtain written authorization to proceed with the construction from the Inspector of Dikes, Ministry of Natural Resource Operations
For more information on the administration of the Dike Maintenance Act contact your local Deputy Inspector of Dikes
On April 1, 1997 the Contaminated
Sites Regulation of the Environmental Management Act (B.C. Reg. 375/96)
took effect. If the subdivision involves land that has been used or
is used for industrial or commercial purposes or activities, you may have
to provide a site profile, a form which describes the potential hazards on the land.
Schedule 2 of the regulation sets out some examples of the types of
industrial or commercial land uses to which site profile requirements
apply. More information is available from Ministry of Environment Regional and Victoria offices. If the land has not been
used for industrial or commercial purposes you may provide a letter
to that effect, rather than a site profile. A letter template is available.
Applications involving contaminated sites may not be issued preliminary
approval unless Ministry of Environment consents
to the proposal.