Government Initiatives – Regional

Local or regional governments recognize the importance of taking action to guard against the potential impacts of urbanization on the liveability of communities. Regional governments across BC are establishing policies and bylaws that promote sustainable community development and are increasingly developing innovative programs and approaches to improve sustainability and to increase the efficiency of infrastructure. These programs result in improvements to drinking water, wastewater treatment, refuse disposal, stormwater quality, and land use planning, all of which lead to reductions in chemical contaminant in the environment.


Municipalities and regional districts make up the local government system in BC. BC is divided into regional districts, some of which include a number of municipalities within their boundaries. Municipalities (including villages, districts, towns and cities) make up only a very small proportion of the total area of BC, but they serve more than 80% of the population. Municipalities and regional districts provide a wide range of services including the supply and treatment of water, the collection and treatment of wastewater, stormwater collection and management, and the collection and disposal of refuse. Where they provide water and sewer services, they also own the infrastructure and, therefore, are responsible for maintaining it and for implementing measures to minimize the environmental impacts of these services.

Municipal wastewater treatment plant discharges and stormwater sewer discharges have been identified as sources of chemical contaminants to the environment. Throughout BC, regional governments are establishing policies and bylaws that help to minimize these releases. In addition, many regional governments have implemented programs to monitor contaminants in wastewater and also environmental monitoring programs to monitor levels of contaminants in the air and water.

Official Community Plans (OCPs) can be prepared by both Regional Districts and municipalities. OCPs provide any opportunity for local governments to confer with stakeholders in the development of an official plan to guide policies on all areas of future planning and land use management. Policies relating to the preservation and restoration of the environment and the protection of local species are often incorporated. The guidance provided by OCPs for future development and densification is important in minimizing the release and impacts of environmental contaminants by maintaining greenspace and agricultural land and by controlling the location and types of developments and areas of impervious surfaces. Development permit areas (DPAs) can be used to achieve the goals of the OCPs. DPAs are areas which require development permits from the local government. DPAs can be designated to protect farm land and environmentally sensitive areas and, where development is desirable, to guide both form and character and can require a review by professional engineers or biologists. In addition, the Local Government (Green Communities) Statutes Amendment Act (or Bill 27), provides additional support for local governments in developing greener communities through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, energy conservation, and the promotion of greener and more sustainable communities.

A recent awareness that conventional development does not adequately protect the environment has led to the creation of “low impact development” strategies. Low impact development can go a long way toward creating greener communities by incorporating innovative stormwater management and land development strategies. Some of these strategies, such as rainwater management and the use of permeable pavement, effectively reduce the loadings of contaminants to waterways from stormwater discharges.

In addition, regional governments can develop bylaws to reduce pollution relating to contaminants releases to both air and water. Bylaws developed by each regional government vary and can be viewed by accessing the websites of the specific municipality or regional district. Many municipalities in BC have now introduced bylaws relating to air quality and controls on the use of cosmetic pesticides.

For more information on regional government programs relating to contaminants in the Georgia Basin, refer to following websites:

Metro Vancouver

City of Vancouver

Capital Regional District


More information on Regional Government Programs

Links to useful websites