Watersheds and Water Quality

Water is a vital natural resource, and sustainable forest management is imperative for the maintenance of healthy watersheds and water supplies.


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Protecting water quality is a top priority for Mosaic Forest Management in our forestland operations – one that is highly regulated by law, enshrined in our environmental commitments and backed by our management practices and environmental certifications. We aspire to be a leader in sustainable forest management.

This page provides information on water management practices at Mosaic, information on regulations that apply to drinking water and links to where you can find more information on water purveyors and their water quality management and testing.

Learn about our collaborative management of the Nanaimo drinking watershed.

Government oversight of water quality and management

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Laws and Regulations 

Private managed forest lands are different than private lands – owners voluntarily enroll in the program, commit to protecting key public values and submit their management activities to oversight by the Managed Forest Council. The Managed Forest Council is an independent agency with the authority to protect key public values on private managed forest land. More information on the Council and their responsibilities is available at www.mfcouncil.ca.

Activities on private managed forest land are governed by the Private Managed Forest Act and Regulations, along with more than 30 other Federal and Provincial statutes. Some of the most relevant as related to watershed management include:

Private Managed Forest Land Act

“…a primary forest activity must not cause a material adverse effect on the quality of drinking water that may affect human health at the point of diversion of a drinking water intake.”

Sustainable Forestry Initiative® Certification and the Protection of Water Resources

All forest lands managed by Mosaic Forest Management are certified to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI®) sustainable forest management standard. SFI mandates the use of best management practices that are comprehensive and go well beyond legal requirements to protect water quality. SFI Program Participants must implement protection measures to protect all water bodies including rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands. In addition, maintaining SFI forest management certification requires mandatory, third-party audits, the results of which are posted publicly on the SFI website: www.sfidatabase.org

Community Watersheds - Water Purveyors


The following links provide information on community drinking watershed management programs, water quality testing and reports, and other information related to community drinking water infrastructure. Mosaic professional staff meet annually with water purveyors, including the following communities, to provide an overview of planned activities and an opportunity to review plans and provide comments.


Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is the protection of water quality governed by law on private forest lands? Or are any water protection activities taken by Mosaic voluntary?

Both! Mosaic’s Forest Management programs comply with existing regulations, and go beyond what is required by law through voluntary measures associated with our sustainable forest management certifications.

Activities in watersheds and the protection of water quality is highly regulated in BC, including on private forest lands. The private lands managed by Mosaic are regulated by the Private Managed Forest Land Act which, among other requirements, states with respect to drinking water that

“…a primary forest activity must not cause a material adverse effect on the quality of drinking water that may affect human health at the point of diversion of a drinking water intake.”

Public forest lands are regulated similarly under the Forest and Range Practices Act. In addition, there are water quality measures provided for in the following pieces of legislation:

  • Federal Fisheries Act
  • Water Sustainability Act
  • Drinking Water Protection Act

While water quality is managed through comprehensive and multi-faceted legislation, Mosaic’s approach to forest management goes above and beyond what is required in regulation. We are proud to be a leader in environmental certification. All our field operations follow an Environmental Management System which conforms to the International Standards Organization 14001 Standard. Additionally, we have achieved third-party sustainable forest management certification to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative’s Forest Management Standard, which includes detailed, mandatory requirements to protect water resources.

The combination of independent certification layered on top of a comprehensive regulatory regime ensures that we are meeting internationally recognized expectations for responsible forest management.

2. Wouldn’t it be better if watersheds were located in parks and fully protected areas?

When managed appropriately and to high standards, locating community drinking watersheds within managed forest lands holds many benefits. Mosaic’s work with community drinking watershed managers allows communities to benefit from our forest professionals’ expertise in managing the resource with data collected by our professional staff and contractors. In addition, water resource managers from the community have both road infrastructure and access provided and maintained through our operations. We also employ access control and security throughout our private managed forestlands, which greatly reduces the risk of human-caused wildfire or unwanted and unmonitored access to water intakes and other sensitive areas.

3. What steps are taken to ensure that forestry operations do not have adverse impacts on water quality?

Mosaic employs a team of highly-trained professionals including hydrologists, engineers, foresters, and biologists who use a scientific approach to determine the best block design and harvest level within a given watershed, including reserves and retention areas, with particular attention paid to the protection of riparian areas and sensitive ecosystems.

  • We have conducted high resolution laser imaging across our landbase that allows us to generate very detailed geo-referenced topographical maps, surface water flows, geological features, and forest canopy definition down to the single tree.

  • We undertake hydrological and terrain stability studies, and monitor water quality across our watersheds.

  • We have specific standards around road design, bridges and culverts and sediment control, including prescribed inspection regimes by registered professionals for major infrastructure.

  • We review our standards periodically to ensure they are optimal. For example, culvert sizing is reviewed to ensure capacity to pass anticipated flows from a changing climate.

We aspire to be best in class in our environmental management and a leader sustainable forestry management.

4. Are there areas that are excluded from operations because they are sensitive or have the potential to cause negative impacts on watersheds?

Yes, there are substantial reserved areas across our landbase. Mosaic undertakes digital landscape-level terrain mapping assisted by laser imaging data, which is used to identify important terrain features and areas of unstable terrain. We take a prudent approach. If the risk in an area is identified as even modestly potentially unstable, a terrain assessment is conducted often by an independent third-party specialist. In addition, we implement management reserves and no-harvest areas around water intakes and infrastructure, such as dams and associated reservoirs, riparian areas, and sensitive ecosystems. Over time, Mosaic has created or donated conservation areas now totalling over [30,000 hectares].

5. What happens after an area is harvested?

Any harvested areas are replanted promptly with native tree species, usually less than a year after harvesting.

Our seedlings are grown primarily from our own seed, which comes from our seed orchard on the Saanich Peninsula. On average, we sow enough seed to grow 10 million trees annually. In 2018, we planted nearly 12 million Douglas-fir, yellow and red cedar, grand fir, hemlock, Sitka spruce and white pine seedlings.

6. Is logging the source of turbidity experienced in some Vancouver Island communities – particularly in the Comox Lake watershed – during high storm flows?

Turbidity measures the loss of transparency in water due to suspended solids. High stream flows eroding stream banks or roads can cause turbidity; however, Mosaic’s roads and other operational activities are carefully designed to avoid hydrologic or terrain stability impacts that could lead to erosion and turbidity issues. As noted, causing such an impact through forestry activity is prohibited by law under the Private Managed Forest Land Act.

The Comox Lake Watershed has some unique legacy issues in the publicly-owned area of the watershed. These are associated with a dam and infrastructure owned by the Village of Cumberland and located upstream from Perseverance Creek, the banks of which contain a very fine silty-clay that is easily suspended in water. The issues associated with Perseverance Creek are well known by the Comox Valley Regional District and are a key discussion area in their Watershed Protection Plan activities.

7. How will climate change impact watersheds on Vancouver Island, and what steps is Mosaic taking to prepare for climate change?

Mosaic has a formal climate adaptation strategy that is being implemented across all our managed forestlands. Some management activities associated with this strategy include:

  • Using 100-year peak flow estimates for sizing major culverts and bridges,

  • Working with the Pacific Salmon Foundation to undertake riparian stabilization work where our research indicates erosion or sedimentation issues could arise with higher stream flows,

  • Planting seedlings grown from seed selected for exhibiting natural drought resistance in anticipation of drier summers

  • Implementing BC’s Chief Forester’s recommendations on climate based seed transfer

8. Is there any monitoring done to test water quality and any impacts?

Yes, we undertake continual monitoring of water quality and water flows. Mosaic employs a team of professionals – including a Manager of Hydrology and Terrain, alongside many engineers, professional foresters and professional biologists – who design and implement monitoring programs on an ongoing basis in all our community drinking watersheds.

9. Does Mosaic share information on their forest management plans when it comes to community drinking water?

Yes, Mosaic has formal relationships with licensed water purveyors, and we share information on our planned activities. We are responsible for ensuring forest practices do not negatively impact water quality in the drainages associated with the water licence, and make any necessary amendments to planned activites based on this consultation work. We adapt our plans based on consultations with the relevant authorities and communities.