Frequently Asked Questions

In 2023, the Province of B.C. announced an initial $100 million provincial investment to kick-start the creation of an independent Watershed Security Fund. The Fund, and the long-term entity that will hold it, are to be co-developed and co-governed with First Nations to create a growing, permanent stream of funding to support watershed projects and initiatives across British Columbia.

The Fund will build on outcomes and learnings from prior investments in B.C. watersheds, which underscore the value of investing in the health of watersheds in ways that uphold UNDRIP commitments, and provide enduring, predictable funding sources to support this critical work.

The Real Estate Foundation of BC and the First Nations Water Caucus – with the First Nations Fisheries Council – are working together to provide interim Fund stewardship, and to support the co-development of a permanent, co-governed entity to oversee and manage the Fund over the long term. The Water Caucus has a key role in providing oversight and direction for planning and implementing the Fund co-development process.

The Water Caucus is comprised of the First Nation regional and technical delegates from major watersheds across BC, convened by the First Nations Fisheries Council, to discuss and identify shared strategic priorities and interests related to fresh water. Water Caucus delegates participate at the joint B.C.-First Nations Water Table (Water Table). The Water Table addresses water and watershed security issues of concern between First Nations in B.C. and the Province through co-development and consensus. The Water Caucus was first convened by FNFC in June 2022 and has worked with the Province at the Water Table over the past two years to co-develop a prospective Watershed Security Strategy for B.C. The Water Caucus has a key role in providing oversight and direction for planning and implementing the WSF co-development process.

FNFC is a non-profit society that works to develop a cohesive and united voice among First Nations in B.C. FNFC’s approach is to convene First Nations, listen to their priorities and perspectives, and help clearly articulate their shared messaging to decision-makers regarding the integrated planning and management of Pacific fisheries, aquatic resources and habitat at the province-wide level. FNFC, as the secretariat to the Water Caucus, implements the goals and priorities of the Water Caucus and carries out the substantive operational work. They are partnering with REFBC as interim stewards of the Fund and supporting the co-development process.

REFBC is a philanthropic organization working to advance sustainable, equitable, and socially-just land use across what is known as B.C. REFBC funds projects, builds relationships, and shares knowledge among Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities to advance a healthy environment that supports thriving, resilient, livable communities from one generation to the next. For many years, REFBC has been proud to work with First Nations, local governments, the Province and a broad network of partners to advance watershed security through its grants, research and convening, and as host of the Healthy Watersheds Initiative.

An early goal is to begin flowing funds to support watershed security projects and initiatives in 2024, while preserving the initial investment as an endowment and continuing to seek opportunities to grow an enduring fund. The $100 million provincial contribution will seed a permanent endowment fund, generating earnings and dividends that provide a dependable flow of annual funding for grants, programs, and operational investments. The initial contribution includes up to $5 million to support the co-development process and related engagement, capacity, and partnership-building efforts over the next several years.

In the early years, the initial contribution of $100 million will generate a $3-5 million annual baseline budget for grants and programs. Partners will seek additional provincial, federal, industry and philanthropic contributions to help grow the Fund, with a long-term goal of creating a $1 Billion Fund.

Details on funding priorities, processes, and decision-making will be confirmed through the co-development process. Initially, overarching outcomes are intended to address urgent and long-term watershed needs by funding projects and initiatives which support:

  • Reconciliation and advancing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)
  • Restoring and maintaining ecosystem services and watershed health
  • Climate resiliency
  • Local watershed governance, planning & monitoring initiatives
  • Job creation and economic stimulus
  • Learning and relationship-building between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities

As watersheds in B.C. come under increasing pressure due to climate change, collaboration with First Nations is essential. The Fund, and the long-term entity that will hold the Fund, is to be co-developed and co-governed with First Nations ensuring First Nations in B.C. have a meaningful place at the table.

In these early days, the details, funding priorities, processes and decision making are still to be confirmed through the co-development process. The intent is for this to be a Watershed Fund that will enable diverse interests to work together to support and strengthen watershed health and security while uplifting the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Fund and the Strategy are complementary but distinct. The Province continues to co-develop the Watershed Security Strategy with First Nations. The Strategy will identify important priorities and actions to protect water and improve watershed health in BC.

The Fund is anticipated to be one of several tools and resources to support the implementation of anticipated actions in the forthcoming Watershed Security Strategy. The Province of B.C. has multiple responsibilities connected to the Watershed Security Strategy, many of which will need to be resourced within the government in other ways.

While the Watershed Security Strategy will be a comprehensive approach that addresses a wide range of watershed security issues, it must act in concert with the broad range of work ongoing across government and with First Nations.

The Province made an initial investment of $100 million to establish the Fund, as work on the Fund gets underway, the Provincial role will be advisory in nature.

The Province and First Nations continue to co-develop the Watershed Security Strategy.

Please refer to the Grants page for Grant Program FAQs