Re-posted from BC-Yukon Regional office email alert:
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?” (link: http://bit.ly/fzwkNT).
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 by 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 licence 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 (link: http://bit.ly/eTiEtG) 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 increasingly 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.
A new provincial Water Act is expected to be introduced in 2012. Tell the BC Government that you do not want the indroduction 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.
1) Though the ability for residents to engage has been signficantly limited in recent months you are able to engage with the process by posting to the “Living Water Smart” blog: (http://blog.gov.bc.ca/livingwatersmart/) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
*** The “Living Water Smart” blog has responded to the EcoJustice blog suggesting that water markets would not privatize water. A water market clearly removes public control over the allocation of water use for existing licenses. When a particular watershed has reached a maximum number of licences based on capacity all future decision of allocation would be left to the market.
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.
For more information or to get involved in organizing against the introduction of a water market in BC please contact the BC-Yukon Regional Office of the Council of Canadians: