Riparian Areas Regulation

Buyers or Sellers in a transaction that involves a “stream” (as defined below) on the subject property or neighbouring property should be aware that the Riparian Areas Regulation (RAR) could have a significant effect on the value and potential use or development of the property because of legislated building/development setbacks and other requirements protecting riparian areas, including riparian vegetation and fish habitat.

A “stream” in the province of BC is broadly defined in the RAR to include the following that provides fish habitat:
(a) a watercourse, whether it usually contains water or not;
(b) a pond, lake, river, creek or brook;
(c) a ditch, spring or wetland that is connected by surface flow to something referred to in paragraph (a) or (b);
Riparian vegetation and streams are protected by the Federal Fisheries Act; the Provincial Fish Protection Act, and the Water Act. Municipal bylaws may also apply.

While licensees are not expected to be experts in the RAR, they are expected to be alert to the implications of RAR and are obliged to advise clients who are buying, selling or developing property that is impacted by the legislation to seek independent professional advice. Ask your REALTOR!

In instances where a “stream”, as defined above, is present, licensees drafting Contracts of Purchase and Sale should incorporate the following clause:

Fish Protection Act Clause
Subject to the Buyer receiving and approving independent professional advice concerning any limitations on the use and/or development of the property resulting from the Fish Protection Act, by (date).
This condition is for the sole benefit of the Buyer.

If the RAR applies to a property, the local government will require the riparian area and development to first be assessed by a Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP), such as a Registered Professional Biologist (R.P.Bio.), to determine a Streamside Protection and Enhancement Area (SPEA), which is defined as a setback that protects degradation of fish habitat. The SPEA is delineated by a QEP as part of the RAR to protect fish habitat from land alteration, including consideration of sediment and erosion control, damage or alteration of vegetation, and trails and landscaping.

For a list of regional districts and municipalities where the RAR applies, visit:

For more information about riparian areas, visit:


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