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The Living Water Policy Project
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Yukon Water Policy Data


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In 2003, responsibility for the management of water, land, forestry and mineral resources in Yukon was transferred from the Government of Canada to the Yukon government through the Yukon Northern Affairs Program Devolution Transfer Agreement (Devolution Transfer Agreement). This Agreement details the transfer of natural resource management in a manner that is consistent with Self-Government Agreements.

Yukon has also, rather unusually, enshrined the statutory "right to a healthful natural environment" within the Environment Act (1991).

In 2013, the member First Nations and Tribes of the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council approved a Yukon River Watershed Plan. The Plan combines modern science and policy with the traditional knowledge of the Indigenous governments and people of the Yukon River.  The plan also includes specific, objectives and standards to protect the quality, quantity and flow of the water in the river.

The Yukon Government released its approved land use plan for the Peel Watershed region in January 2014. A permanent staking withdrawal for Protected Areas was established at that time. The plan applies to non-settlement land, which makes up over 97% of the region. Protected areas make up 29% of the region, while the remaining public land is divided between Restricted Use Wilderness Areas (allows for low levels of carefully managed land use activity through enhanced regulatory and permitting processes) at 44% and Integrated Management Areas (where most of the land use activity may occur) at 27%. Development can occur to less than 1 percent of the Peel Region at any given time.

Yukon government is currently engaged in a court challenge related to the Plan approval process.

In June 2014, the Government of Yukon released its Yukon Water Strategy and Action Plan. The strategy builds on an inventory of Yukon government water management programs, and addresses current gaps in legislation to deal with current and complex water issues in a more coordinated way.

Yukon water policy photo essay

Yukon water policy facts
(click any title below to reveal policy details)

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Basic Introduction
1: Central Water Legislation (Jun 16/14)
The Waters Act (2003, Revised 2007) is the key piece of legislation that controls water allocation, licensing, and direct and indirect water use. The Act also administers the management of water resources in the province. Furthermore, it established the Yukon Water Board that is tasked with overseeing the conservation, development, and utilization of waters for the ultimate benefit of Yukon residents and Canadians in general.

Public Health and Safety Act (2002) deals with public health concerns such as sewage disposal and drinking water.

Other legislation important to the management of Yukon waters includes Sewage Disposal Systems Regulation, the Umbrella Agreement (Chapter 14: Water Management), the Environment Act (Revised 2002), and the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act (Revised 2005).
2: Key Ministries & Departments (Jun 16/14)
Within the Yukon government, there are seven departments with responsibilities for Yukon waters:

Environment develops water-related strategic plans and policies; monitors, analyzes, and reports on some aspects of water quality (e.g., aquatic health) and quantity (e.g., flood forecasting); and provides expert technical advice in these areas. It plays a key role in the administration and enforcement of the Waters Act, including monitoring compliance of water licences. Other responsibilities include the review of project applications for water use and the deposit of waste, monitoring of licensed groundwater sampling for solid waste disposal sites, remediation of contaminated groundwater as part of Yukon government's Environmental Liability and Remediation program, development of adaptation responses as climate change impacts Yukon's hydrological regime, park planning and operations, and freshwater fish and fish habitat management.

Executive Council Office is responsible for administering the water licensing process and supporting the Yukon Water Board.

Economic Development works with other departments to ensure that water remains useable and accessible to Yukon's private sector, from eco-tourism operators to placer miners.

Energy, Mines and Resources undertakes compliance monitoring and enforcement of water licences (for mining projects). It conducts research and analysis of water quality, and also has legislated responsibilities for water management in relation to land disposition and various land and resource uses.

Health and Social Services regulates public drinking water systems and private sewage disposal through the Drinking Water Regulation under the Public Health and Safety Act;

The Department of Community Services and, to a lesser extent, the Department of Highways & Public Works manages water and sewage provision in unincorporated communities. The former is also mandated to oversee the project management services for community infrastructure (i.e. water and wastewater).

The Yukon Water Board (Board) is an independent administrative body established under the Waters Act. The Board issues water use licenses for the use of water and/or the deposit of waste into water.

The Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (YRITWC), an organization made up of representatives from the governments of more than 70 First Nations and Tribes in the Yukon River basin, also plays a significant role in protecting Yukon's water. The mission of the YRITWC is to assist in protecting and improving the water quality of the Yukon River and all its tributaries.

The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board is responsible for development assessment responsibilities under the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act.

Renewable Resources Councils and the Fish and Wildlife Management Board have responsibilities identified under Chapter 16 of the Umbrella Final Agreement and First Nation Final Agreements.

The Yukon Land Use Planning Council and Regional Planning Commissions have responsibilities identified under Chapter 11 of the Umbrella Final Agreement and First Nation Final Agreements.

The Mackenzie River Basin Board involves six governments (Canada, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories) working together to manage the water resources of the Mackenzie River Basin, including through the negotiation of bilateral water management agreements and the development of basin-wide aquatic ecosystem reporting.
3: Water Rights (Jun 16/14)
A water licence application can be completed under Schedule 4 of the Waters Regulations. The Board, established under s.8 of the Waters Act, is the agency responsible for water allocation. There is an application fee to apply for a water licence as well as fees for water use (s.8 of the Waters Regulations). The public is able to provide comments on water licence applications after the application is publicized with the "day fixed for a public hearing...at least thirty five days after" first providing notification (s.21 of the Waters Act). All applications are advertised allowing the public to provide comments; only some applications will undergo a public hearing, depending upon public interest and determination by the Board.

The Board cannot include conditions in water licences that are contrary to a Decision Document issued under Yukon Environmental and Socio Economic Assessment Act (YESAA). Water licences are issued for a variety of undertakings, such as placer and quartz mining, municipal use, power, agricultural, industrial, miscellaneous, recreational, and conservation. The maximum duration of licenses is 25 years (s.12(1) Waters Act).

Water licenses are subject to 'first in time, first in right.' Whichever license was filed first gets precedence for the water use (s.27(1) of the Waters Act). License holders can transfer water licences to a new owner with approval from the Board (s.9(1) of the Waters Regulation; s. 17(1) of the Waters Act). An assigned licence is deemed a continuation of the previous license (s. 27(3) of the Waters Act).

There are penalties and fines under the Waters Act. For type A water licences there is a fine of up to $100,000, imprisonment up to one year, or both. For type B water licences there is a fine up to $15 000, imprisonment up to six months, or both. If there is water use or waste deposited into water without a licence in contravening the Act, the penalty will be the same as type A licences (s.38 of the Waters Act). There are currently no ticketable offences for water license infractions under the Summary Convictions Act.

There is no limit mentioned to the amount of water that can be used under the authority of a water license under the Waters Regulation (although all licenses do identify a maximum withdrawal). The Waters Regulations schedules 5 through 10 outline direct water use and deposit of waste criteria: Below are examples of daily water uses that would require a water licence:

Schedule 5: Industrial

                        1(a) Oil and Gas: Over 100m3/day: type B license

                        1(b) Any other Industrial Undertaking: Between 100m3/day and 300m3/day: type B license; Over 300m3/day: type A license
            Schedule 6: Placer Mining: Over 300m3/day: type B license

            Schedule 7: Quartz Mining: Over 300m3/day: type B license

            Schedule 8: Municipal: Over 100m3/day: type B license

           Schedule 9: Power: All power undertaking class sizes require water license- Type of licence is based on class size (0 through 6)                                              

            Schedule 10: Agricultural, Conservation, Recreational and      Miscellaneous Undertakings: Over 300m3/day: type B license
4: Data Collection/Monitoring (Jun 16/14)
The Environment Act requires a State of the Environment Report to be completed once every three years, with interim reports in the intervening years (s. 47 of the Environment Act). This report provides data on stream flows, lake levels and groundwater aquifers and water quality monitoring.

Water Quality Trend Monitoring
In 2005, Environment Yukon's Water Quality Unit in cooperation with Environment Canada's Pacific-Yukon Water Quality Monitoring and Surveillance group began monitoring four new river monitoring stations: Klondike River, McQuesten River downstream of the Keno mining district, and Yukon River upstream and downstream of Whitehorse. A station at Rose Creek downstream of the Faro minesite was added in 2008. These complement five existing stations in the Liard, Desadeah, Alsek, Porcupine and Old Crow rivers.

Water Quality Objectives Monitoring
As part of water quality objectives monitoring for the Fish Habitat Management System for Yukon Placer Mining (2008), the Department of Energy, Mines & Resources' Client Services and Inspections Unit conducts regular sampling in watersheds affected by placer mining, focusing on 4 primary and 4 secondary target watersheds each year. To date results have been reported for Big Creek, Forty Mile River, Indian River, Klondike River, Mayo Lake, McQuesten River, Sixty Mile River, Stewart River, White River, Yukon River North, and Yukon River South.

Yukon River Water Quality Monitoring and Climate Change Project
The Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council in collaboration with the United States Geological Survey conducts water quality sampling throughout the Yukon River Basin as part of the Water Quality Monitoring and Climate Change Project. Yukon monitoring sites are located in several locations including Teslin, Carcross, Carmacks, Whitehorse, Mayo, and Dawson.

Canada-Yukon Water Quantity Monitoring Network
The Canada-Yukon Water Quantity Monitoring Network is part of a Canada-wide program that provides accurate, timely and standardized data and information on the current and historic availability of surface water. The network is run by Water Survey of Canada and co-shared by the Yukon and Canadian Governments. There are 52 active stations in the Yukon.

Yukon Hydrometric Network
Environment Yukon's Hydrology Unit operates a hydrometric network for small drainage basins (<500 km2). There are currently 16 stations on small rivers and creeks in three of the territory's major watersheds (Yukon, Alsek, and Liard) for which discharge is published, and the Yukon River at Dawson hydrometric station, which records stage only.


Yukon Meteorological and Snow Survey Network
The Hydrology Unit runs a Meteorological and Snow Survey Network. Snow pillow stations are established within the upper Yukon, Stewart, and Pelly River basins, while measurements are taken three times annually (March 1, April 1 and May 1) for 62 active snow courses in all of Yukon's major basins. Snow survey and meteorological data are summarized in the Yukon Snow Survey Bulletin and Water Supply Forecasts prepared and issued by the Unit after each of the sampling dates.


5: Transboundary Issues (Jun 16/14)
Yukon is part of the Mackenzie River Basin Transboundary Waters Master Agreement along with Canada, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest Territories. Under the auspices of the Mackenzie River Basin Board, Yukon and the Northwest Territories developed and signed the Yukon-Northwest Territories Transboundary Water Management Agreement.

Additionally, in the Umbrella Agreement (Chapter 14 s.14.10) covers inter-jurisdictional agreements. It states that the Canadian Government will make best efforts to negotiate water management agreements with other jurisdictions which share drainage basins with the Yukon. Similarly, the Government will help in negotiations in the management of water in a shared drainage basin within those Yukon First Nations' Traditional Territories.
Water Quality
1: Drinking Water Laws (Jun 16/14)
The Drinking Water Regulation (under the Public Health and Safety Act, 2002) was enacted in 2007. It contains regulatory requirements for the operation of large public drinking water systems and bulk delivery of drinking water.



2: Source Water Protection (Jun 16/14)
Since source water protection (SWP) is in the early stages in the Yukon, there are no specific policies or departments designated to manage source water. Other than the First Nations Water Management Strategy (2003), there are few policies that directly address SWP. Various policies and legislation address water quality, such as the First Nations Water Management Strategy (2003); the Protocol for Safe Drinking Water in First Nations Communities (2006); the Waters Act and Waters Regulations (2003); and the Drinking Water Regulation (under the Public Health and Safety Act) (Approved 2007).

Chapter 14 of the Umbrella Agreement outlines responsibility for water management under the Waters Act. The care and control of water resources through the administration of the Waters Act was devolved to the Yukon Government. Control over the provision of drinking water systems, however, has always been the responsibility of Yukon's Department of Community Services.

While the Board has no direct responsibility over land resource management, it manages the administration of water licenses required for water use. SWP is indirectly addressed through conditions of the license such as those preventing depositing of waste above specific thresholds.  Since the First Nations have responsibility over land and water management in their territories, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada supports these communities in developing SWP plans. The regulation of drinking water quality and adequacy of systems, fall under the Yukon Government's Department of Health and Social Services. This department enforces the Drinking Water Regulation, parts of which address source water quality for large public drinking water systems.

3: Wellfield Protection (Jun 16/14)
Developing drinking water from groundwater sources for large public drinking water systems must be done at certain distances from listed sources of pollution (s.9 of the Drinking Water Regulation). The Drinking Water Regulation requires that wells servicing large public drinking water systems be installed and decommissioned according to the Guidelines for Water Well Construction as recommended by the Canadian Ground Water Association.
4: Groundwater Permitting (Jun 16/14)
The Board is responsible for groundwater licensing under the Waters Act, regulated by Waters Regulation. There is no authorization required for domestic water use (s.6 of the Waters Act).

Annual reporting, where licenses are required, provides information on location, source, and purpose of extraction (s.14 of the Waters Regulation). Licensees must also provide information about the quantity of water used.

The Board must provide notice of each application (s.21 of the Waters Act). A public hearing may be held to solicit public opinion (s.21 of the Waters Act). Appeals may be made to the Supreme Court within 45 days of the decision (s.26 of the Waters Act). The Yukon Water board website is a publically accessible website that provides all permitting information. In addition, the new WATERLINE website provides water license application information and is also utilized by licensees to upload reports and other regulatory information.
5: Storm/Waste Water Management (Jun 16/14)
The is the Sewage Disposal Systems Regulation (1999) under the Public Health and Safety Act controls disposal of sewage from kitchens, bathrooms, toilets, laundry facilities etc. but does not apply to storm water discharge. Additionally, under the Public Health and Safety Act, the Commissioner in Executive Council may make regulations respecting public health and sanitation (including sewers and sewage systems).

6: Ecosystem Quality Needs (Jun 16/14)
There is no explicit reference to ecosystem quality needs. However, ecosystems are protected through regulation of water abstraction and waste deposits into watercourses (Waters Act and Waters Regulations). There are no explicit references to environmental flows or water quality. Similarly, in the Environment Act, ecosystem quality needs are not outlined, but the aims of the Act include the conservation of the natural environment (s.38 of the Environment Act).
Water Quantity
1: Water Conservation Strategy (Jun 16/14)
Yukon Government released its Yukon Water Strategy and Action Plan in June 2014, which includes conservation as a principle guiding water management in the region. The Yukon's Government Climate Change Action Plan (February 2008) does list ways to reduce emissions (which include water conservation actions).


2: Ecosystem Quantity Needs (Jun 16/14)
There are no specific aquatic ecosystem protections/mechanisms in the legislation. However, aquatic ecosystems are defined under "environment" in the Environment Act, which aims to conserve the natural environment (s.38 of the Environment Act). Section 4 of the Waters Act could also be considered.



3: Interbasin Transfers (Jun 16/14)
The Yukon government has developed an interim policy statement for use in the territory based on the Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Canada policy statement (December 2003) which prohibits bulk water removals from the major river basins of the three territories.


4: Climate Change Linkage (Jun 16/14)
The Government Climate Change Action Plan includes a water resources risk and vulnerability assessment (both water quantity and quality). It also has a tool to facilitate the collection and distribution of water quantity and quality data.

Water Resources Hydrology Section monitors climate change impacts to water (i.e. snow, river ice break-up, flooding, permafrost)

The Wolf Creek Research Basin was established in 1993 to carry out water-related studies. It has evolved into a multidisciplinary project including studies of climate and climate change, permafrost, vegetation, fisheries and wildlife. Findings on meteorological and hydrological processes in cold regions have been transferred to other Yukon regions as well as other cold regions jurisdictions to use in project design, assessment and operation.
References (Jun 16/14)

Document Disclaimer:

Every effort has been made to ensure complete accuracy of the content of this briefing note but this document is only a summary and should not be considered legal or planning advice.  Please refer to the relevant legislation and regulations for further information.

References

Canadian Ground Water Association, (1995). Guidelines for Water Well Construction Retrieved April 7, 2010 from http://www.cgwa.org/press/guidelines.htm

Council of Yukon Indians, (1993) Umbrella Final Agreement Between the Government of Canada, the Council for Yukon Indians and the Government of the Yukon Retrieved April 7, 2010 from http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/al/ldc/ccl/fagr/ykn/umb/umb-eng.pdf

Drinking Water Regulation, Y.O.I.C. 2007/139, (Public Health and Safety Act)

Environmental Assessment Act, S.Y. 2003, c. 2, [Repealed or spent]

Environment Canada, (1987) Federal Water Policy Retrieved April 7, 2010 from http://www.ec.gc.ca/eau-water/default.asp?lang=en&n=D11549FA-1

Government of the Northwest Territories (n.d.).  The Mackenzie River Basin Master Agreement.   Retrieved March 23, 2010, fromhttp://www.ngps.nt.ca/Upload/Interveners/Government%20of%20the%20Northwest%20Territories/j-gnwt-00027/documents/08_Mackenzie_Master_Agreement.pdf

INAC, (2003). First Nations Water Management Strategy 2003 -2008 Retrieved April 7, 2010 from http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/ai/arp/es/0708/fnwms/fnwms-eng.asp

INAC, (2006). Protocol for Safe Drinking Water in First Nations Communities Retrieved April 7, 2010 from http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/enr/wtr/pubs/sdw/sdw-eng.pdf

Public Utilities Act, R.S.Y. 2002, c. 186

Repeals Environmental Assessment Act, Y.O.I.C. 2005/202, (Environmental Assessment Act)

Sewage Disposal Systems Regulation, Y.O.I.C. 1999/82, (Public Health and Safety Act)

Waters Act, S.Y. 2003, c. 19

Water Regulation, Y.O.I.C. 2003/58, (Waters Act)

Yukon Department of Community Services, (2005). Rural Public Drinking Water Access Consultation Retrieved April 7, 2010 from http://www.community.gov.yk.ca/pdf/water_strat.pdf

Yukon Healthy and Social Services, (2004). Guidelines for Bulk Delivery of Drinking Water Regulation Retrieved April 7, 210 from http://www.hss.gov.yk.ca/pdf/drinking_water_pt3_guidelines.pdf

Yukon Healthy and Social Services (2006).  Assessment Guideline for Well Water or Groundwater Under the Direct Influence of Surface Water Retrieved April 7, 2010 from http://www.hss.gov.yk.ca/pdf/well_ground_guidelines.pdf

Yukon Healthy and Social Services, (2007a). Guidelines for Disinfecting Your Drinking Well Water Retrieved April 7, 2010 from http://www.hss.gov.yk.ca/pdf/well_disinfect_guidelines.pdf

Yukon Healthy and Social Services, (2009a).  Arsenic in Drinking Water - Information for Well Owners Retrieved April 7, 2010 from http://www.hss.gov.yk.ca/pdf/well_arsenic.pdf

Yukon Government, (2009). Yukon Government Climate Change Action Plan Retrieved April 7, 2010 from http://www.environmentyukon.gov.yk.ca/pdf/YG_Climate_Change_Action_Plan.pdf

Yukon Government, (2011). Yukon Water: A Summary of Climate Change Vulnerabilities Retrieved April 18, 2011 http://www.environmentyukon.gov.yk.ca/mapspublications/plansreports.php#water

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Yukon Government, (2014). Water for Nature, Water for People: Yukon Water Strategy and Action Plan. Retrieved June 11, 2014.



Yukon Placer Economic Health Working Group, (2008). Fish Habitat Management System for Yukon Placer Mining Retrieved April 7, 2010 from http://www.yukonplacersecretariat.ca/pdf/economic_health_monitoring_protocol_nov08.pdf

Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council. Retrieved June 16, 2014 from http://www.yritwc.org/.

Yukon Water Board. WATERLINE website. Retrieved June 16 from http://www.yukonwaterboard.ca/WATERLINE/




 

 

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