Action Alert: Stop the Introduction of a Water Market in the BC Water Act

2011 February 04, by Chapter Council

This post is from Harjap Grewal, our BC/Yukon Regional Campaigner.

ACT TODAY!

A new provincial Water Act is expected to be introduced in 2012. Tell the BC Government that you do not want the introduction of a water market to allocate water in the new Water Act. Ask the government to support an allocation system that provides hierarchy of use prioritizing ecological and social needs.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

  1. Post your concerns to the “Living Water Smart” blog: http://blog.gov.bc.ca/livingwatersmart or email ian.graeme@gov.bc.ca
  2. With the political uncertainty surrounding this process it is extremely important to raise this issue during the leadership races of all the political parties and to demand that candidates make a commitment to preventing a water market from being introduced in any future legislation. Contact your local MLA today and make sure that all leadership candidates make their position clear.

BACKGROUND

The recently released framework for the Modernization of the BC Water Act released by the BC Government proposes to introduce water markets, also called “tradable permits” to allocate water licences in the province. Randy Christensen, Staff Lawyer with EcoJustice, recently highlighted this concern in his blog post titled BC’s water to be sold to the highest bidder?

The implications of such a framework are very serious. This would essentially remove regulatory control over the allocation of water and instead allow for allocation priorities to be determined a market and purchasing power. Communities and various levels of government would be prevented from prioritizing social and environmental needs over corporate interests.

The proposal would allow for water users who currently hold a licences to sell it to the highest bidder on an open market. Whoever purchases the licence may be able to change what the water is used for, potentially setting up a situation where water currently being used in agriculture winds up being used in a hydraulic fracturing operation. Worse yet, the proposal talks about creating “a more flexible system … by reducing the government decision making burden and streamlining requirements.” In other words, creating a deregulated market for BC’s water.

The Technical Background Report released by the province reinforces the need for residents of BC to be alarmed. The report suggests that a water market “has the potential to reduce the role of regulators in reallocations” and “may even create incentives for further withdrawals in overburdened systems.” The report also acknowledges that the use of economic instruments such as water markets “requires careful attention to such concerns as restrictions under free trade agreements and social equity considerations.” However, no information is provided as to how trade agreements such as NAFTA and the Canada-EU comprehensive economic trade agreement (CETA) currently being negotiated would impact water allocation on a deregulated market in BC.

*** For more info of CETA visit: http://www.canadians.org/trade/issues/EU/index.html

The Modernization of the Water Act is increasing focusing on “economic efficiency” rather than prioritizing a regulatory framework that can prioritize ecological needs and equitable access ensuring the human right to water. A water market will prioritize economic rights over human rights allowing corporations involved in water bottling, hydro-fracking, private “ruin-of-the-river” power projects, and mining operations to proceed unchallenged with abusive use of water resources due to their vastly superior financial ability to purchase licences on a deregulated market rather than apply for them through a government regulated process.

Photo courtesy John Schanlaub’s flickr photo stream used under a Creative Commons licence.