By Alex MacPherson
More than 100,000 people have signed a petition criticizing British Columbia’s decision to sell the province’s water for $2.25 per million litres.
The fee is part of a series of changes made in the Water Sustainability Act (WSA), passed on April 19 of last year, which will regulate B.C. groundwater for the first time ever.
“Implementing the new WSA comes with a price,” said Mary Polak, B.C.’s minister of environment. “New staff will be hired and new systems will be developed to bring B.C.’s water law into the 21st century. To pay for these costs we’ve recently amended the water fees and rentals that water users pay. The new fee structure will cover the costs of implementing the new WSA, and not a penny more.”
Critics of the WSA suggest that it doesn’t go far enough in charging companies like Nestle for bottling Canadian water.
“If a Canadian were to bottle enough groundwater to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, they’d pay $180,” the online petition, posted on SumOfUs.og, says. “Nestlé will pay $6.25. That’s bananas.”
Under the old Water Act, Nestle and other groundwater companies were not required to pay anything to the government to bottle and sell water.
“Through our public consultation process, which began in 2009 and is among the most thorough consultations government has ever undertaken, people were very clear that they did not want government treating such an essential resource like a commodity to make a profit from,” Polak said.
“British Columbia has never made of profit from water and we’re not about to start. The fees we’re charging will cover the additional costs incurred by having modern legislation. However it is the new tools within the legislation itself that will allow us to conserve, preserve and protect our water resources.”
Under the new agreement, companies using water for industrial purposes will pay the most expensive fees. Agricultural users will pay less than that, followed by non-domestic users. Household wells will not be regulated or charged.