Nobody knows because critical data is outdated, inaccessible, incomplete or missing: report
A new report commissioned by the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia (REFBC) reveals that nobody knows how the province’s rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands are faring against a range of threats. The problem? Critical data is outdated, housed in inaccessible formats, unavailable or difficult to access.
Making that information available will require leadership and collaboration by the provincial government, according to the authors of Murky Waters: Taking a snapshot of freshwater sustainability in BC. Multiple sectors—including local and First Nations governments, academia, industry and nongovernmental organizations—need to get involved, they say.
The report makes eight recommendations:
1. Conduct regular public opinion surveys on freshwater attitudes by a cross-section of water partners to ensure long-term availability of the data.
2. The provincial Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy should regularly report on water sustainability plans, both completed and in development.
3. The ministry should regularly publish details of water objectives, including 1) measurable criteria and 2) decision makers specified to follow the objective.
4. The ministry, in collaboration with the provincial Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and local governments, should annually track and publicly post water conservation plans.
5. Environment and Climate Change Canada, in collaboration with the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy and local governments, should resume the Municipal Water and Wastewater Survey, or a similar survey, to report on wastewater treatment levels across Canada, broken down by province.
6. The Environmental Protection and Sustainability branch of the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy should report annually on lake data beginning in 2018. Data should include the trophic status of lakes across B.C.
7. Diverse groups that gather water data should come together to increase the quantity and quality of data and improve data accessibility.
8. Additional resources should be made available to develop measures to track progress in the areas of Indigenous co-governance, local watershed entities and open-access data hubs.