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Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change

Submission Requirements for Watercourse Alterations

Who Needs This Approval?

Do you require a Notification or an Approval for your Watercourse Alteration Activity?

There are a number of criteria that determine whether your project needs a notification or an approval. Please refer to the Activities Designation Regulations for the submission requirements. The following document provides guidance on the submission requirements.

What are the new regulatory submission requirements?

When is a Notification or Approval NOT required for a Watercourse Alteration?

An approval or notification for a watercourse alteration activity is NOT required where the activity is:

  • maintaining lands and structures by marsh bodies incorporated under the Agricultural Marshland Conservation Act; or
  • maintaining alterations or structures associated with watercourse alteration activities, if the work is done above the ordinary high water mark; or
  • alterations that do not disturb the bed or bank of the watercourse or the flow of water in the watercourse.
Issuing Department / Agency:
Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change
Where can you get this Approval and / or further information?

Any Regional or District Office of NSECC


Head Office, Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change,

Phone: 902-424-3600
Fax: 902-424-0501
Visit: Barrington Tower
1894 Barrington St.
Suite 1800
Mailing Address: PO Box 442
Halifax, NS B3J 2P8
Application Forms & Process:

For Approvals:

The following approval application form and submission checklist must be submitted with your application

Other permits approvals that may be required:

For Notifications:

The following notification form must be submitted to NSECC.

Other permits approvals that may be required:

If you want to install a watercourse alteration in a Protected Water Area, you should check the relevant Protected Water Area Regulation to see if there are additional requirements for watercourse alterations or contact your municipality.  The Protected Water Area Regulations can be found at: The withdrawal or diversion of surface water or ground water in excess of 23000L per day requires an approval from Nova Scotia Environment.

Waiting Period:

For Approvals:

60 business days or less provided that all the items that must accompany the application have been received

For Notifications:

You must wait 5 days after Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change receives your completed notification form and you must receive your notification receipt before starting work.

Expiry & Renewal:

For Approvals:

This approval is valid until the expiry date shown on the approval. It can be renewed. Note, it is the responsibility of the Approval holder to contact the Department before it expires; NO NOTICE of renewal will be sent out by the Department if the original approval is expired.

For Notifications:

Notification projects must be completed between June 1 and September 30. The summer months are a low-flow period for the watercourse, which means the watercourse alteration work should have less impact. If you have not completed your project by September 30th, you will require an approval from NSECC.

Please note: notifications that are received after September 25th will be valid from June 1 - September 30 of the following year.


For Approvals:

The current fees for approvals are listed in the Fee Regulations.

For Notifications:

There is currently no fee to submit a watercourse alteration notification.

Related Requirements:

For Approvals:

Terms and conditions will be issued for each specific proposal and activity.

For Notifications:

No other documents are required with the notification form, however as part of an audit you may be asked to provide information used to plan the watercourse alteration, such as the calculations used to size a culvert or other crossing structure.

Additional Information:

What is considered a watercourse or water resource?

  1. watercourse" means any creek, brook, stream, river, lake, pond, spring, lagoon or any other natural body of water, and includes all the water in it, and also the bed and the shore (whether there is actually any water in it or not). It also includes all ground water. (Source: Environment Act, Section 3)
  2. “water resource" means all fresh and marine waters compromising all surface water, groundwater, and coastal water (Source: Environment Act, Section 3)

It is important to note that overland water flow is not a watercourse. Overland water flow is the movement of water, such as after a rain event or the melting of snow, over land where the features of a watercourse are absent. As an example the need for a cross culvert in a road to allow overland water to move from one side of the road to the other is conveyance of overland flow.

All coastal alterations should be referred to the Department of Natural Resources.

Legislative Authority:
Environment Act, Statutes of Nova Scotia, 1994-95, Chapter 1, Activities Designation Regulations, Approval and Notification Procedures Regulations and Fees Regulations.

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