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.


On this page:

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.

This page provides information on water management practices at Mosaic, information on how 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 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 watershed management programs, water quality testing and reports and other information related to community drink water infrastructure.


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
  • Water Users’ Communities Act
  • Drinking Water Protection Act
  • Fish 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.

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? +

Actually, when managed appropriately and to high standards, locating community watersheds within managed forestlands holds many benefits. Mosaic’s work with community watershed managers allows communities to leverage the expertise and data collected by our field crews, as well as the infrastructure and access provided and maintained through our operations. Also, we employ access control and security throughout our private managed forestlands, which greatly reduces the risk of human-caused wildfire or unwanted and unmonitored access by groups 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 professionals use best practices from scientific research and modelling to determine acceptable amounts of harvesting within the watershed. We take pride in our commitment to sustainable forestry and bringing this to life on the ground.

  • Our equivalent clearcut area modelling is used to guide our planning for all new harvesting areas to ensure the science of watershed hydrology, and impact avoidance is addressed.

  • We undertake hydrological and terrain stability studies, monitor water quality in numerous areas of our watersheds on a continual basis, and employ best practices for riparian management.

  • We have specific standards around terrain reviews, road and culvert location and maintenance, monitoring and more. We have recently increased our standards for culverts in anticipation of higher stream flows resulting from climate change.

  • Our management practices in riparian areas work to protect water quality and stream integrity by creating no-harvest buffers around fish-bearing streams and sensitive sites.

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

Mosaic undertakes landscape-level terrain mapping across all our forestlands, which is used to identify important terrain features and areas of unstable or potentially unstable terrain, where risk of sloughs or landslides could be elevated. If an area of planned operational activity overlaps with an area of potential instability, a terrain assessment is conducted by an independent third-party terrain specialist. On-the-ground terrain assessments are conducted whenever signs of instability are present to review the entire harvesting plan including road construction. Any areas deemed to be unstable are removed from the harvest and road plan.

5. What happens after an area is harvested? +

Any harvested areas are replanted promptly with native tree species. Our reforestation performance sees all sites growing new, healthy trees, 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 11,973,000 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 the suspension of solids. High stream flows eroding stream banks or roads can cause turbidity; however, Mosaic’s roads and other operational activities are carefully located and maintained 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 associated with a dam upstream from Perseverance Creek, the banks of which contain a very fine silty-clay that is easily suspended in and slow to settle out from 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 Streamkeepers Federation, a not-for-profit volunteer organization dedicated to stream enhancement and protection, to undertake riparian stabilization work where our research indicates erosion or sedimentation issues could arise with higher stream flows

  • Planting seedlings grown for 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 extensive and continual monitoring of water quality and water flows. Mosaic employs a team of professionals – including a manager of hydrology and terrain and a resource technologist, alongside many professional foresters and professional biologists – who design and implement monitoring programs on an ongoing basis in all our community watersheds. The data collected is shared with community water managers to inform their activities and water protection and conservation efforts.