Last week, the Province of British Columbia and the Nicola First Nations, signed the Nicola Watershed Pilot Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), an agreement to explore opportunities to engage governments and stakeholders in the management of water in the Nicola watershed.
In recent years, the watershed has experienced complex water management issues related to changes in water quality, water quantity, and the health of aquatic ecosystems. The provincial government and the Nicola First Nations have been discussing ways to co-lead a Water Sustainability Act project to identify actions and tools that will address priority water problems.
“I see this partnership as having a huge impact on our relationship with the province, but more importantly, for ourselves as Indigenous peoples as we become one with our land again. And how will I know the road we’re building is going to lead us down a better path?” said Chief Harvey McLeod, Upper Nicola Indian Band. “What are the milestones that we can look to? For the long-term, it’s full co-operation, full involvement, full inclusion in decision-making on how we regulate, and how we take care of the water together. There will be an understanding on both sides.”
Building on previous work, the province and the Nicola Chiefs will work in partnership and through engagement of stakeholders to sustainably govern water resources in the Nicola watershed for the benefit of future generations.
“As a funding partner, we are really pleased to support this important partnership between the Nicola First Nations and the Province to advance innovative and collaborative watershed governance in British Columbia,” said Tim Morris, project director for the BC Freshwater Legacy Initiative. “The signing of this MOU represents a new way of approaching water stewardship; one that recognizes how fresh water flows through all aspects of our local economies, ecological wealth, and social well-being.”
The primary focus of the project is to address priority water issues. Key outcomes will be determined jointly and are related to: addressing environmental, economic, social risks, and resiliency; building relationships, capacity, and knowledge; and building whole-of-watershed approaches to water management.
“We know changes are happening in the Nicola watershed and there is a need to develop solutions together,” said George Heyman, B.C.’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “The pilot will build on the work that has been ongoing in the watershed by communities and individuals for a number of years.”
The Province and the BC Freshwater Legacy Initiative are co-funding the project. Impetus for the pilot came from an agreement between the BC Freshwater Legacy Initiative and the province to explore innovative models for collaborative watershed governance and management.