OTTAWA – New water legislation expected to come into force soon falls short of what is needed to protect water in British Columbia, says a new report by the Council of Canadians.
The combined effects of fracking, mining, drought, and the bottled water industry have wreaked havoc on a vulnerable resource, with corporations competing with surrounding communities for water. The report, Water Rush: Why B.C.’s Water Sustainability Act fails to protect water, calls on the province to enact tougher legislation before water sources are drained dry.
“While the Water Sustainability Act addresses many concerns, it does not go far enough,” says Emma Lui, water campaigner for the Council of Canadians. “The province continues to ignore key demands from Indigenous and local communities. The new legislation will be the foundation for future safeguards of water use, but right now that foundation is on shaky ground. The government has the responsibility to make that foundation solid so that communities, economies and future generations can rely on safe, clean water.”
The report urges the government of British Columbia to act on a number of urgent issues:
- Do away with its outdated “first in time, first in right” (FITFIR) system, which gives priority to those who used water first in the region, regardless of the purpose.
- Cease issuing water usage permits that do not have an expiry date.
- Recognize water as a human right, public trust and commons, ensuring that communities’ drinking water is protected from corporate abuse.
- Recognize Indigenous title and water rights in the legislation.
- Establish a public comment process on every application to take water.
“The droughts that have decimated California can easily happen here,” warns Lui. “When you compound climate change with bad policy, you end up with serious repercussions. It is time we develop a water ethic and put water at the centre of all policy. British Columbia still has the opportunity to become a leader in water stewardship and water justice.”
The report is available here.