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NEWS: Price the bulk usage of water by industry, says the NRTEE

The Canadian Press reports, “The federal advisory body on sustainable development wants governments to put a price on water used by industry… ‘A price on water reduces intake by industry resulting in more water conservation and better water use efficiency,’ the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy says in a new report. …The report’s forecasters find that water intake could be cut by 20 per cent with water prices ranging from five to nine cents per cubic metre — a price that would not have any major competitive ramifications.”

“‘Water charges that put a price on the volumes used could send a strong signal that water is valuable and must be efficiently used and conserved,’ the report states. Voluntary efforts to reduce water usage have not shown great success in the past, the report says. And more radical controls such as setting up a water permitting system should be approached with caution in case they distort economic activity, it adds. Pricing bulk usage of water, on the other hand, is relatively easy since many provinces already have the bones of a system to build on.”

“The panel’s study found that natural resource sectors account for 86 per cent of Canada’s overall water use. For now, the largest user by a wide margin is the thermal electricity sector, although this sector also recycles most of its water. The oil and gas sector is not a major consumer of water at a national level, the research shows. But regionally, it is. And in the future, water consumption by companies involved in the extraction of tight gas and shale gas is expected to soar, the panel’s modelling shows. So policymakers would be wise to put a price on water usage soon, the report says. History in Canada and around the world shows that companies react quickly to such price signals, even if they are small.”

“Researchers working with the federal round table — a government-selected group of business, labour and academics — developed a model that projects industrial water usage to the year 2030. They found that while water-heavy industrial activity is expected to increase by about 40 per cent over that time, water usage will rise just three per cent.”

“By highlighting the lack of information about Canada’s water and alerting policymakers to potential problems down the road, the round table hopes to encourage governments to act early to prevent water shortages, added the round table’s president David McLaughlin, in an interview.”

CBC adds, “(The report) goes so far as to suggest charges for industrial water use, or the creation of tradable water permits. ‘A water charge seems the most likely option of the two, at least in the shorter term, and can be viewed as a transitional policy option,’ the report says. ‘In contrast, trading of water permits within a watershed represents a fundamental shift in water management systems and can be seen as a transformative option.’ To pursue these issues, the round table has convened a meeting of experts in Ottawa for Jan. 12.”