Environmental Regulatory Compliance for
Highway Development and Operations

Changes In and About a Stream

About Changes In and About a Stream

In British Columbia, ownership of water and most streambeds is vested in the Crown and the main provincial statute regulating water resources is the Water Act. Section 9 of the Water Act regulates “changes in or about a stream.”

“Changes in and about a stream” means:

  • (a)   any modification to the nature of a stream including the land, vegetation, natural environment or flow of water within a stream, or
  • (b)   any activity or construction within the stream channel that has or may have an impact on a stream.

"Stream" includes a natural watercourse or source of water supply, whether usually containing water or not, and a lake, river, creek, spring, ravine, swamp and gulch.

"Stream channel" means the bed of a stream and the banks of a stream, whether above or below the natural boundary and whether usually containing water or not, including all side channels;

Part 7 of the Water Act Regulation ensures that water quality, fish and wildlife habitat and the rights of licensed water users are not compromised.

The Regulation allows certain activities to be undertaken when carried out in compliance with the Regulation, rather than under the authority of an approval or licence. Under the Regulation, a number of routine works are permitted, provided that the general conditions and notification requirements are met. An approval or licence is required in cases involving more complex works and for the short-term use, storage or diversion of water. If an activity is not specifically identified in the Regulation it will require an approval or licence.

The Process for Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Projects

If works in and about a stream are planned, they may proceed only after the Water Act notification or approval requirements have been met.

The notification/approval process, managed by FrontCounter BC, has three stages:

  1. MoT completes the notification/application form and submits it to FrontCounter BC. The same form, available online, is used for both notifications and approval applications. The form includes clear instructions and related links.
  2. Front Counter BC accepts the notification/application form, checks for completeness, and passes it on to MoE. MoT questions or followup are directed to FrontCounter BC.
  3. Approval applications will be adjudicated by a Water Stewardship Officer; Referrals to First Nations by FrontCounter BC if impacts to fish and heritage sites are of concern; Notifications will be reviewed by a Habitat Protection Officer.

Section 44 of the Regulation identifies the types of work that can proceed with only a notification. Notifications must be submitted at least 45 days before the works begin (Water Regulation, section 40(1)(a)). The Habitat Protection Officer will contact MoT if they have questions or recommendations regarding the notification. If the Habitat Officer has not contacted MoT within 45 days of receipt of the Notification Form, the work may proceed.

The Water Stewardship Officer will contact MoT if they have questions or recommendations regarding an approval application. The Water Stewardship Division's goal is to process Approval applications within 140 days of receipt.

Related Websites

Water Stewardship Division – Changes in and About a Stream

Water Act

Water Act Water Regulation

Application Form

Standards and Best Practices for Instream Works

A Users Guide to Working in and Around Water

FrontCounter BC

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