Changes In and About a Stream

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Under the Water Sustainability Act (WSA), "changes in and about a stream" means:

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

A stream is defined in the WSA as a natural watercourse, including a natural glacier course or natural body of water. Bodies of water described by the term "stream" can include a lake, pond, river, creek, spring, ravine, gulch, wetland features with open standing water, or glacier (whether or not the glacier usually contains water or ice).

A stream channel, in relation to a stream, means the bed of the stream and the banks of a stream, both above and below the natural boundary and whether or not the channel has been modified, and includes side channels of the stream.

Change Approvals

A change approval is a written authorization to make changes in and about a stream. You do not require a change approval if the changes are associated with construction of works that are authorized in a water licence. Change approvals are granted with terms and conditions attached. The terms and conditions may relate to the time of year in which you may undertake the work, or undertake other measures that protect the aquatic ecosystem, the hydraulic integrity of the stream channel and the rights of water users and landowners downstream.


Notifications are used for low risk changes in and about a stream, specified in Part 3 of the Water Sustainability Regulation, that have minimal impact on the environment or third parties. The work must meet the requirements of the Water Sustainability Regulation, and comply with any conditions set out by a habitat officer in response to a notification.

You must submit notification of proposed work to FrontCounter BC a minimum of 45 days before beginning work. Submitting more than 45 days ahead of time is recommended. If you have not heard back from a habitat officer with Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations within 45 days (or by the proposed start date, if you submitted more than 45 days in advance), you must make sure that your work meets the terms and conditions described in Part 3 of the Water Sustainability Regulation (OIC 549/2017 (PDF)) and any terms and conditions specific to the region in which you are working, and you may proceed with the changes.

Regional Terms and Conditions and Timing Windows

The authority to work in and about a stream, either through a change approval or notification, is generally granted with terms and conditions attached. Terms and conditions vary from region to region, and work in each region is generally restricted to specific times of the year called regional timing windows.

If you are granted a change approval, terms and conditions will be specified as part of your approval.

If you are submitting notification of instream work, you must comply with the terms and conditions in your region, as well as any terms and conditions specified by the habitat officer.

Terms and conditions and timing windows for your region can be found here.

NOTE: Marine/saltwater is not included within the definition of a "stream" or a "stream channel" under the Water Sustainability Act.