Did you know that while you have to pay for tap water, a company can take millions of litres of ground water from anywhere in British Columbia free of charge?
Why is that? It is because B.C. is the only province in Canada that does not currently regulate ground water usage. In fact, despite some changes over the years, our provincial Water Act hasn’t changed much in over 100 years—since 1909.
I was therefore pleased when, on October 18, 2013 the Minister of the Environment, Mary Polak, released the government’s legislative proposal for a new Water Sustainability Act.
The proposal is part of a much needed Water Act Modernization process that began in 2008. The details of this act will determine how ground water usage is regulated and potentially create opportunities for water protection at the watershed level. It will also enable a variety of governance arrangements, allowing for flexibility and adaptability in different regions.
However, as with everything, the devil will be in the details. Take the Nestle example, for instance. A few months back Nestle was in the news because it doesn’t pay for the ground water it extracts in B.C. for its bottled water. Under the new proposed costs, Nestle would now be able to fill 2 million 500ml bottles of water (your typical vending machine variety), for a total cost to them of only 85 cents.
There are certainly other issues that will need to be addressed in this legislative proposal, and the public engagement process is an opportunity to voice your own concerns. One of the more detailed responses so far was produced by the University of Victoria’s POLIS Water Sustainability Project. I encourage you to read the legislative proposal and the responses that groups like POLIS have already submitted. Then, please take a minute to submit your own feedback to this process.
I will be looking into this issue in detail in the coming months, and will provide my own comments and concerns on the final legislation when it is tabled in the spring. Please see the links below for more information on how to get informed and involved.
Water Sustainability Act Legislative Proposal Feedback – This is the link to the Government’s Water Sustainability Act website. It allows you to review the legislative proposal, to review other stakeholder submissions, and to submit your own feedback to the process. http://engage.gov.bc.ca/watersustainabilityact/
POLIS Water Sustainability Project – This link will take you to POLIS’s feedback on the government’s Legislative Proposal. This group has taken an in depth look at the proposal, and has identified areas of strength and weakness. http://poliswaterproject.org/publication/598
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