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UPDATE: Oppose water markets in British Columbia, deadline for comments Feb. 21

The British Columbia government’s web-page on policy proposals for its new Water Sustainability Act states that, “Leading thought and practice…shows that a well designed market can provide flexibility that allows water to be shifted to other users or uses. Water markets may also enhance water flows thereby protecting ecosystems and species. A water market can also be restricted to a particular sector such as agriculture where water conserved through efficiency gains or crop changes could be traded across the sector. Government would establish basic ground rules and conduct audits of water markets to ensure that there are no negative impacts on the environment or other users.”

The Council of Canadians has been actively challenging these types of arguments and opposing the introduction of water markets in Alberta for almost two years now.

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 July 2010, Council of Canadians Prairies organizer Scott Harris told the Canwest News Service, “The members of the Our Water Is Not for Sale coalition…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.”

For campaign blogs on speaking events, coalition meetings, and news reports of our work in Alberta against water markets, please go to:

The BC government page on water markets and water rights trading is at http://blog.gov.bc.ca/livingwatersmart/2011/01/28/what-do-we-mean-by-water-markets-and-water-rights-trading/.

In the coming days the Council of Canadians will be producing key talking points to assist concerned British Columbians to post critical comments on the BC government’s Water Sustainability Act e-consultation webpage. Only 22 comments have been posted to this website since it was announced on December 17. The deadline for those comments is February 21. The web-page is at http://blog.gov.bc.ca/livingwatersmart/2010/12/17/policy-proposal-on-british-columbia%E2%80%99s-new-water-sustainability-act-released/.