Barlow asks Premier Clark to rethink BC's Water Sustainability Act

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has written British Columbia premier Christy Clark asking her to rethink Bill 18, her government's new Water Sustainability Act.

Barlow highlights, "In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognized the human right to water and sanitation. As a result, there are now three obligations that governments must follow: the obligation to respect, protect and fulfill. We regret that Bill 18 does not explicitly recognize this right and we believe it also fails to meet these obligations."

With respect to the Obligation to Protect, whereby local communities should be protected from pollution and the inequitable extraction of water by corporations or governments, Barlow notes that Bill 18:

  • still includes a First In Time First In Right provision in which an older water-taking permit held by a gas or mining company could take priority over a new permit for drinking water, sanitation or conservation;
  • neither properly regulates large-scale water users nor charges appropriate fees for their water-takings;
  • does not adequately recognize Indigenous rights and title as stewards of their territories;
  • fails to recognize a community's right to refuse a project that abuses or pollutes their water;
  • notes that the government could rely on industry information to "determine the environmental flow needs" of a waterway, rather than conducting its own stringent monitoring;
  • does not require wider notice to people living within a watershed about an application or water license amendment that could impact their drinking water.

Barlow tells Premier Clark, "Bill 18 is not scheduled to be implemented for another ten months. It is not too late for your government to take measures to ensure that the human right to water and the obligations to protect, respect and fulfill are fully reflected and met in your policies and practices."

To read the full letter, please click here.

Further reading
Council of Canadians opposes BC's new Water 'Sustainability' Act (February 2015 blog by Maude Barlow)
Does BC's New Water Sustainability Act Sink or Swim? (March 2014 blog by Leila Darwish)
BC Water Act not likely to limit fracking in the province (December 2013 blog)