Pricing a concern for lobby group in new water rules

The public has until April 8 to offer reaction to changes to the century-old Water Act introduced in the legislature this week.

Anyone concerned with how groundwater will be priced under the new B.C. Water Sustainability Act still has time to offer feedback online.

It’s important to stay vigilant on this issue, and make sure the legislation “has some teeth,” said Sheila Muxlow of the Water Wealth Project.

Industrial water-use pricing needs to be reformed to ensure large corporations like Nestlé “are no longer taking us for a ride and that water is being used sustainably,” Muxlow said in a release.

The public has until April 8 to offer reaction to the water pricing details released with Bill 18, introduced in the legislature this week, updating the more than century-old Water Act.

It’s seen by provincial officials as a major step forward for B.C.

“Most notably, the new Act will bring groundwater into the licensing system, and will expand government’s ability to protect fish and aquatic environments,” according to the WSA release online.

There is also recognition locally of what the new rules have achieved.

“We are pleased to see that B.C. will finally regulate the use of groundwater and recognize that sufficient environmental flows are essential to the well-being of communities throughout the province,” said Muxlow. “However, this Act is still only a broad framework and the government has decided to defer many of the details to future regulations.”

One of the aspects being developed is water pricing, but guiding principles have been released.

“The B.C. government is also reviewing its approach to water pricing and has released a set of principles that will help inform a new fee and rental structure to support the new act and sustainable water management.”

Timing is key.

Concerned B.C. residents should “stay engaged in the process to ensure that the legislation has some teeth and isn’t another false dawn,” Muxlow added.

One failure so far was the lack of adequate recognition of aboriginal rights and title.

“Moving forward, it is clear that any efforts to govern water must involve leadership from First Nations who have been stewards of fresh water in this province for thousands of years.”

The timing of the legislation coincides with Canada Water Week which runs March 17-23 and World Water Day on March 22.

“We have a lot to be proud of in B.C., including some of the most beautiful and productive rivers, lakes and streams in the world. By pushing for world-class legislation to protect water we have an opportunity to keep things that way,” Muxlow added.

A series of water-themed events are planned by Water Wealth. Here’s a couple of them: On Monday March 17, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., it’s Get To Know Your Home Waters Walk where folks will meet at the Vedder Rotary Trail parking lot at the south end of Peach Road, weather permitting.

Later the same day on March 17, from 6:30 p.m to 8:30 p.m. it’s A Watery Film Night: “Watermark” in Bldg 10, 7201 Vedder Rd. (Sto:lo Research and Resource Management Center)

More events at http://www.waterwealthproject.com/canada_water_week_2014

To offer feedback on water pricing go to http://engage.gov.bc.ca/watersustainabilityact/

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