Ecojustie on Updating Water Act: B.C.’s water to be sold to the highest bidder?


From – Jan 26, 2011

by Randy Christensen

For the past several years, there has been a multitude of discussion papers, extensive public consultations and big speeches from the B.C. Government on the effort to “modernize” the B.C. Water Act. It’s the law that governs who gets to use water, for what, when, where, and who gets the priority when there’s not enough to go around.

Everyone agrees the systems is broken, it’s only a question of what to do about it.

All of the public statements from June 2008 until December 2010 were unambiguous in promising strong legal protections for environmental flows and revisiting the antiquated and highly problematicfirst in time, first in right system.” More importantly, the B.C. Government de-emphasized the potential adoption of “market reforms” such as “water rights trading” that has devastated communities around the globe.

But what was a well-intentioned and well-managed process seems to have fallen victim to B.C.’s current political turmoil. In late December the B.C. Government posted the “proposed framework” for new water laws that in introduces water rights trading (section 5). Troublingly, the strong legal protections for environmental flows have been downgraded to guidelines that merely have to be “considered” when someone wants to take water from a stream (section 1).

In the current leadership vacuum, those managing the process have become politically risk adverse and are simply defaulting to the blueprints of conservative governments around the world. This approach downplays the need for good governance and views markets as a solution that solvers any and all problems.

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About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.