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BC’s New Water Act: Is Our Water Protected?

We are living at a critical time in human history, at a cross roads where our choices today will determine whether we and our off-spring continue to inhabit this amazing planet. It is a time that requires radical new habits and bold innovative thought. If we don’t grab the opportunity for renewal with both hands, change will be forced upon us, perhaps in the form of the annihilation that is currently and rapidly wiping out so many species on this planet.

British Columbia is about to get a new Water Sustainability Act, the long awaited update of our hundred year old Water Act. You and I (British Columbians) have until November 15, 2013 to comment on the proposed new Act.

Given this precious opportunity to protect the future of our most acclaimed and valuable resource, this about-to-be legislated Water Sustainability Act is beyond a disappointment. ‘Dinosaur’ doesn’t quite describe it because Dinosaurs had teeth which is more than can be said for this document.

Withdrawals for Bottled Water

Nestle CEOCurrent legislation in British Columbia allows companies (including non-Canadian companies) to extract up to 1,710,000 gallons of groundwater per day without a permit and ship it anywhere in the world providing it is in bottles less than 20 litres in size. This rate of extraction is ten times greater than the limit set by federal regulations. No wonder foreign bottled water companies like doing business in BC.

The proposed new Water Sustainability Act will require companies withdrawing large amounts of water for bottling to have a license, to have an environmental assessment, to report & measure, and to pay 0.85 cents per 1000 cubic metres* of water extracted. However the new Act fails to clearly limit how much water can be withdrawn and to limit access to BC’s water by foreign interests. (*A cubic metre is about the size of a fridge and is equivalent to 264 US gallons or 1000 litres.)

Bottled Water Loophole

Removal of water in bulk from the province is prohibited in the old Act as well as the new one. However water withdrawals destined for bottles less than 20 litres are not considered ‘bulk’ and are exempt from this prohibition.

Bottled water companies like Nestlé have robots that work 24/7/365 filling container loads of bottles for shipment around the world. Is this not ‘bulk’ withdrawal? Take a look and judge for yourself!

Reality of ‘Environmental Assessments’

Environmental assessments certainly make sense…in theory. The current reality is that they are long delayed or don’t happen because there simply isn’t anyone to do them due to government cutbacks. One wonders in whose interest will these yet-to-exist assessors and decision-makers be trained? Industry, government, the public, local interests or Nature? This should be spelled out in no uncertain terms.

The creators of BC’s new Water Sustainability Act claim to have ‘listened to the people’ in formulating this document. Did they have their hands over their ears during the recent uproar about Nestlé’s bottled water withdrawals in Hope? Have British Columbians not made it clear that we DO NOT WANT foreign corporations taking our water? At any price!

‘Equitable’ to All Sectors Justifies Non-Renewable Exploitation by Foreign ‘Investors’

In its attempt to be ‘equitable to all users and to not create a competitive disadvantage for investment in B.C.’ the preparers of this new Act neglect the fact that their mandate is to serve the people and province of BC (not foreign investors) and that the ‘investments’ to which they refer centre around British Columbia’s most essential and non-renewable resource which needs to stay in British Columbia with protected status.

Common sense suggests that the primary responsibility of a British Columbia Water Sustainability Act should be protecting the watersheds of British Columbia, not being ‘equitable’ to investment interests, especially foreign ones.

Exemptions for ‘Power Purpose Water’

Also disturbing are the exemptions the new Water Act gives to water withdrawals for generating power. Water consumption for power generation is enormous yet the new Act proposes a 40 year exemption from license renewal to this most critical sector of water use.

We have no idea what climate changes may confront us next month, let alone FORTY years from now. The amount of British Columbia’s water currently used for generating power consumed by Canadians and Americans is staggering. Where is the flexibility and foresight in this proposed new Water Act for sustaining British Columbian interests when power corporations (which were once and are no longer publicly owned in British Columbia) are granted special long term exemptions?

Diverting vast quantities of BC’s water to support outdated energy generation for Canadian and American consumerism at a time when climate change is bringing devastating drought to two thirds of North America is nothing short of treachery. Or is it blind stupidity?

Energy, and how we source it, is the key to our future well-being, or our demise. Those who control energy control us…unless we (the collective) wake up. The time has come to graduate from exploitive energy generation to free energy sources. This vast universe supports massive systems without paying a single cent to BC Hydro. Innovation, support and funding for suppressed technologies is needed NOW.

We, Collectively, Need to Step Up to the Plate

This proposed Water Sustainability Act does not reflect the magnitude of what is at risk. Good governance requires intelligence, courage and innovation. These qualities are missing from this proposed new Act.

It’s time for some governance with guts and intelligence and it is going to have to come from us, the collective. Existing government and political process clearly isn’t getting the job done as needed.

You can read the proposed new Water Sustainability Act here.

Public feedback about the proposed new Water Sustainability Act is invited here by November 15, 2013.


2 Responses to “BC’s New Water Act: Is Our Water Protected?”

  1. jesse Says:

    this is so disturbing
    harper wont leave anything left of this country

  2. Monique Constant Says:

    I agree that the new Water Sustainability Act lacks courage, foresight and wisdom. After reading it from start to finish I had many questions, too many to name here, most importantly why is it that investors, mining, oil and gas, and electricity are still much exempt from paying their dues. Domestic users of water account for much less use compared to industrial and commercial uses combined, and yet it it still pounded in that we need to be careful of our water use during extreme times. I do my part, it would be nice to see and hear big corporations do their part as well. I think bigger fines, more thorough assessments, longer wait periods for projects and shorter license terms that require renewal every year. Along with this, monthly and yearly fees for corporations, mining and drilling for oil productions, factory farms, and no allowances made for First in Line. As one can imagine while reading this I am quite unsympathetic toward the industries of exploitation.
    Thank you for the info, I will definitely be sending in my two cents of thought to the Minister.

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