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VIEW: Get the BC Water Act right, say Parfitt and Schreier

Hans Schreier

Hans Schreier

University of British Columbia professor Hans Schreier and Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives policy analyst Ben Parfitt write in the VIctoria Times Colonist that, “The province (of British Columbia has) received more than 1,000 written submissions and solicited opinions at numerous public meetings (over the past two years) all aimed at informing how we modernize the rules governing water use in the years ahead.”

“The poll results and submissions tell us that urban and rural residents want strong, legislated water flow standards. Two-thirds of poll respondents also place a premium on healthy water flows and say that environmental objectives should trump even economic development, because without a healthy environment there is no healthy economy.”

Ben Parfitt

“We also know that there is broad support -including support from some farmers, who understand better than most the linkage between water and food security -to change B.C.’s antiquated ‘first in time, first in right’ water allocation system.”

“Third, we need new ways to govern how water resources are managed. Communities, for example, must be more involved in the land-use and resource development decisions that affect local freshwater systems. Right now, they hardly have a say in crucial decisions that could affect them in significant ways, opening the door to preventable public health risks and potentially crippling watershed restoration and water treatment costs.”

“Finally, B.C. is in the embarrassing position of having no meaningful groundwater licensing regime. The end result is that we risk sinking too many wells into the ground in places where there is insufficient water. Worse, B.C. lacks baseline information on how much renewable water -groundwater or surface water -we actually have. Lacking proper hydrometric records, how can we be confident, for example, that many of the hundreds of proposed run-of-river hydro projects in the province make sense or can ultimately be sustained?”

“In the coming weeks as a new B.C. premier seeks to put his or her stamp on government, the temptation may be to abandon previous initiatives. But it would be a catastrophic mistake to forestall the commendable efforts to bring our Water Act into the 21st century.”

The Council of Canadians action alert opposing the introduction of a water market through the BC Water Act is at http://canadians.org/action/2011/BC-water-market.html.

Campaign blogs with Council of Canadians commentary on the BC Water Act are at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=6514, http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=6171, http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=6354 and http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=6177.

The op-ed by Parfitt and Schreier is at http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/Treat+water+rights+with+respect+they+deserve/4338152/story.html?cid=megadrop_story.