BC’s ‘Water Sustainability Act’: a Trojan Horse for Privatization and Deregulation?

You probably haven’t heard of it, but the BC government has created a new ‘Water Sustainability Act’ (WSA). This new act is being sold as a ‘modernization’ of an outdated piece of legislation, the old Water Act. But, as always, the devil’s in the details, and several components of the WSA seem to be anything but sustainable. In fact, the new act seems more like a Trojan Horse that will facilitate the privatization and de-regulation of river/stream water rights and usage.

In a recent article on the new act, Randy Christensen outlines the serious threat to the public interest posed by the BC government’s legislation: http://www.vancouverobserver.com/blogs/water/2011/01/26/bc%E2%80%99s-water-be-sold-highest-bidder

Randy points out that the only way to stop the theft of our public water is to raise such an uproar that the BC government will be forced to back down on the worst aspects of the new act.

There are at least five ways you can do this:

  1. Use the government website comment form to demand that the government drop the worst components of the new act, such as its water privatization (‘water markets’) and de-regulation of ‘environmental flows’ measures. You can comment until Feb. 21 at the following site, by clicking the ‘We welcome your comments and questions.’ section: http://blog.gov.bc.ca/livingwatersmart/
  2. Contact your MLA and ask him/her to pressure the government to abandon its privatization and de-regulation measures in the WSA. You can find your MLA here: http://www.leg.bc.ca/mla/3-1-1.htm
  3. Contact the leadership candidates in the BC Liberal and NDP leadership contests. This is a unique opportunity to make them publicly state where they stand on the privatization and de-regulation of the WSA. You can find contact information for the leadership candidates on the provincial party websites.
  4. Write a letter to the editor about why the new WSA is so bad for BC. Focus on the privatization and de-regulation issues. You can find links to newspapers here: http://www.abyznewslinks.com/canadbc.htm
  5. Last, but not least, contact EVERYONE in your networks (family, friends, co-workers) and tell them about the THEFT of our public water that is being facilitated by the new water act.

Please ACT NOW to protect our public water. If you want to continue to live in a province that has democratic, public control of this precious resource, don’t delay. If you want to avoid a future in which a few corporations with close ties to the government are gifted with OUR water and the power to sell it to the highest bidder, please take action immediately.

Finally, here’s a copy of my submission to the government website:

Submission on Water Sustainability Act, Jan. 29, 2011

By Norman Hill

I am strongly opposed to the proposed Water Sustainability Act. It appears that this proposed ‘modernization’ of the Water Act is being exploited as an opportunity to do two things that are fundamentally against the public interest.

Firstly, by creating water markets that essentially gift a public good (water) to a private corporation or individual and then make it a tradeable commodity, the BC government would be PRIVATIZING WATER and turning it into a commodity that can then be sold to the highest bidder. Since water is essential to life and many users depend on it, there’s no justification for gifting ownership of water to a privileged few (such as Independent Power Producers or mining companies) and then making other users pay whatever price the lucky new ‘owners’ of the water decide to charge. Since water is so essential, there would of course be virtually no limit to what the private ‘owners’ could charge. This is an affront to any concept of natural justice or democracy. Because of its uniquely essential nature, water has always been and must continue to be a public good that is publicly controlled by the BC government and managed for the benefit of all users and the environment.

Secondly, the proposed Water Sustainability Act would gut strong legal protections for environmental flows (rules that ensure water takings do not compromise the health of the river/stream ecosystem) and replace them with ‘guidelines’ that merely have to be ‘considered’ when water is being taken from a river/stream. This is clearly a move to de-regulation that will allow private corporations or individuals to exploit water resources for maximum economic benefit while ignoring the health of the ecosystem. How can this possibly be sustainable? One can easily imagine a scenario where a bottled water company would have an economic incentive to squeeze as much water out of a stream as possible, with a passing nod to the environmental flow ‘guidelines’. To de-regulate a public good like water in such a way is grossly irresponsible.

Because the privatization and de-regulation of water are so clearly against the public interest, I demand that: the BC government immediately drop its water markets concept (including the long term/permanent gifting of water rights to certain corporations/individuals and all measures that would facilitate making water a tradeable commodity); the BC government abandon its plan to downgrade legal protections for environmental flows to ‘guidelines’.

The citizens of BC deserve a much better ‘modernization’ of the Water Act than is being offered in the new Water Sustainability Act. For any Water Sustainability Act to be ‘sustainable’, it must be re-written (as I’ve suggested above) in a way that affirms public, democratic control over water and rigorous environmental protections for water that are based on the needs of the eco-system and all water users, not just the narrow interests of a few privileged ‘owners’.

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One Response to BC’s ‘Water Sustainability Act’: a Trojan Horse for Privatization and Deregulation?

  1. Yikes, this is scary stuff! Thank you for the heads up. I’ll be reading more about it and sharing this link to help get the word out.

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