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Why B.C.'s New Water 'Sustainability' Act Won't Wash

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The Council of Canadians is opposed to Bill 18, British Columbia’s Water Sustainability Act.

The Vancouver Sun reports, "Starting next January, communities and companies that tap British Columbia aquifers will have to start paying the province for the water they’re using. ...Environment Minister Mary Polak unveiled new water rental rates last week that will be applied when the new Water Sustainability Act comes into force next year, and will apply to groundwater users for the first time."

The article highlights, "The rate works out to about $5.63 for the amount of water to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Nestlé, at the time of B.C.’s consultations over revising its 100-year-old Water Act, was annually bottling some 250 million litres of water without being charged. At the new rates, that would cost $562 in fees." Not surprisingly, Nestlé Waters thinks the new act is fair.

And the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers thinks the new rates are "equitable" for British Columbia's oil and gas sector. Keep in mind that the fracking for just five of the proposed Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals in the province would require an estimated 582 billion litres of water.

In 2013, the Council of Canadians demanded that the new Water Sustainability Act:

  • recognize water as a human right
  • reaffirm water as a public trust that belongs to people and cannot be privately owned or controlled
  • create an approval process for groundwater withdrawals that includes public consultation, incorporates community input into the final decision, and respects a community’s right to say “no” to projects that abuse or pollute water
  • include strict pollution controls, strong conservation regulations and stringent monitoring
  • ensure a process to revoke permits where industries are polluting or abusing water
  • charge industry proper fees for their use of raw and municipal water takings
  • recognize Indigenous title and jurisdiction to watersheds as well as secure free, prior and informed consent protocols within the Water Act alongside policies to monitor and sustain groundwater.

For an excellent analysis of how Bill 18 falls short of these critical principles, please see British Columbia-Yukon organizer Leila Darwish's blog Does BC's New Water Sustainability Act Sink or Swim?

The Council of Canadians will continue to press the British Columbia government of Premier Christy Clark to respect these fundamental principles of water justice.


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