Indigenous water law project receives $350K in funding

waterlawsUVic Law faculty members Deborah Curran and Val Napoleon have received $350,000 in funding from SSHRC and the Real Estate Foundation of BC for a three year project on the critical issue of BC's water laws. The project, Water Laws: Lessons from Indigenous and Colonial Stewardship, will focus on three regions of the province where water use is at issue - the Similkameen Valley, the Cowichan Valley of eastern Vancouver Island, and the Nemiah Valley in the Chilcotin.

The team will work with three Indigenous communities to map their Indigenous water laws and draw parallels between Indigenous water stewardship and licenced water user behaviour in the context of specific watersheds. They will interview agriculture sector water rights holders and water utility staff to uncover how they understand and use their water rights, and how they adjust to changes in stream flow in the context of the new ​Water Sustainability Act to demonstrate how watershed communities adapt and share water in times of shortage. Using community workshops, public materials on Indigenous water law, and a graphic water law text, the goal is to generate information and processes for moving towards collaborative watershed stewardship and water sustainability planning involving Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. 

"This funding allows us to work with three watershed communities in new ways and brings together for the first time research in Indigenous and colonial law," says Curran. And with this funding, Curran explains the final outcome of the project:

"We anticipate the project impact to be fourfold. First, the project will create a body of Indigenous water law for use by the partner First Nations as well as the broader watershed and academic communities. Second, the project will daylight licensed water user behaviour for the first time in BC and show the stewardship measures that water users take outside of what is required in their licenses. Third, the project will bring together the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in each watershed to learn about watershed stewardship and provide an opportunity to develop skills towards water sustainability planning. Finally, the project will provide input into the implementation of the Water Sustainability Act by building capacity in three watersheds towards water sustainability planning as well as briefing local and provincial government staff on the project results and recommendations."

For more information about the project please contact Professor Deborah Curran at . For more information about graduate studies opportunities related to this project please contact Abby Winograd at .