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Barlow starts discussion on price of water

Ottawa, ON—The Council of Canadians released a new report by National Chairperson Maude Barlow today, entitled Paying for Water in Canada in a Time of Austerity: A Discussion Paper. The paper seeks to harmonize the seemingly contradictory views of conservationists, who tend to favour high prices to discourage consumption, and anti-poverty advocates, who want to ensure affordability.

Barlow, a former Senior Advisor on Water to the UN General Assembly and author of the international best-seller Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water, outlines the features and drawbacks of various pricing models. Given the need for underfunded municipalities to levy service charges, she lays out a clear set of guidelines to ensure respect of the right to water and the principle of water as a commons.

Barlow goes on to argue, however, that the focus on household use is “a distraction from the real use and abuse of water” and points out that 90 per cent of water is used by water-reliant natural resource industries. She notes that “even high rates for residential users will not cover the cost of water damage done by industrial agriculture, energy and mining, and manufacturing.”