Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow is in Edmonton today to fight against water markets. She will be speaking at a forum titled ‘The Fight for Water: Challenging Water Markets in Alberta’. She will be joined by Ian Douglas, the national coordinator of Fair Water Use Australia, via Skype from Australia, and Sootaanaah (Duane) Goodstriker, ambassador of environmental affairs for the Sovereign Blackfoot Nation. The forum begins at 7 pm (local time) and takes place on the University of Alberta campus. More on the event at http://canadians.org/events/Maude_Barlow.html.
The Globe and Mail has reported that, “Precipitation shortages, compounded by the increased demand of a booming economy and growing population, have left Alberta with an unprecedented water crisis…” The Calgary Herald adds that, “In southern Alberta — where water supply has always been a concern — a sweeping ban exists on new licences for nearly every river, lake and stream. It’s sparked a small but burgeoning private market for water since the restrictions came into place in 2006. …Some 52 transfers have occurred since 2006, including a high-profile water deal that saw Western Irrigation District farmers give up some of their water rights to support a mammoth horse racing track and mall development on Calgary’s northern outskirts. The agreement cost the Rocky View County $15 million. …In southern Alberta, the pace of economic growth along with the possible effects of climate change have led heightened anxieties about water rights. In northern Alberta, the use of water for oilsands development has also caused apprehension about supply. …The Council of Canadians charges that Alberta is the province with the least amount of fresh water in Canada and the most critical supply issues looming in the future.”
In July of this year, the Canwest News Service reported that, “The province announced in the fall of 2008 that it would review the 1999 Water Act and introduce new legislation governing how decisions about water allocation are made in the province. (Council of Canadians organizer Scott Harris said,) ‘Indications are that the government plans to introduce a province-wide largely deregulated water market which will determine who will have access to water in the future.’ (There is also concern) that in over two years of review there has been practically no public engagement or consultation on the issue.”
THE COUNCIL OF CANADIANS
In June 2009, Council of Canadians water campaigner Meera Karunananthan told Fast Forward Weekly, “The water market system is absolutely not the solution. We consider water to be a human right. When you allocate according to the laws of the market, then you see water going to those who can pay the most. So it goes to the highest bidder.”
In November 2009, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow told the Edmonton Journal, “It looks like the province is going to be the first in Canada to move to a market-based solution for water. It’s a big concern because the public loses control of something essential for life and it becomes a market commodity. …We need to have such a strong model of conservation and a notion of equity in access to it. And instead Alberta is moving to a (system of) leave a little bit in the ground, we’ll have that base amount, and then everything else is a free-for-all put out to the market. Letting the market decide who will have access to water violates the public trust doctrine, a principle of common law which regards water as belonging equally to all peoples and managed by governments on their behalf.”
In March 2010, national water campaigner Meera Karunananthan and Prairies organizer Scott Harris hosted a roundtable meeting in Edmonton with key groups to discuss a campaign to counter the threat of water markets in Alberta. This led to the creation of the Our Water Is Not for Sale coalition.
On July 9, the Canwest News Service reported that, “A coalition of organizations began a campaign (yesterday) urging Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner not to introduce legislation that would establish a province-wide water market.” The Our Water is Not for Sale coalition includes the Council of Canadians, Public Interest Alberta, the National Farmers Union, the United Church of Canada, the Sierra Club, and many other groups. “(Council of Canadians prairies organizer Scott Harris said) the groups in the network have disparate interests, but they all agree on one thing: leaving decisions about who will have access to water up to the market will not ensure there is enough water left in Alberta’s rivers to ensure their health and will not ensure basic human needs are prioritized as the province increasingly struggles with the water crisis.”
The Canwest News Service article is at http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Coalition+battles+Alberta+wide+water+market/3251992/story.html, the Calgary Herald article is at http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/Critics+want+water+licences/3253866/story.html#ixzz0tBTVyrJe.
1. Blogs – Water markets: The Alberta government will face a battle, http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/mvk/2010/03/water-markets-alberta-government-will-face-battle, Another step towards water markets in Alberta, http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/mvk/2010/04/another-step-towards-water-markets-alberta, also VIEW: ‘Canada should look at Spain’s water banks,’ says Eric Reguly, http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=409; NEWS: Council challenges water markets in Alberta, http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=845; NEWS: Water definition at core of debate, http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=2604; NEWS: Alberta faces water crisis, looks to water markets, http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=3278.
2. Media Releases – Council of Canadians warns against Alberta water market plans (November 2009), http://canadians.org/media/water/2009/23-Nov-09.html, Message to Renner: Our Water is Not for Sale, http://canadians.org/media/water/2010/08-Jul-10-3.html.
3. Articles – There is No Market for Water, http://canadians.org/publications/CP/2010/spring/water.pdf.