The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Dylan Penner, Council of Canadians Media Officer, 613-795-8685

Council of Canadians Warns Against Alberta Water Market Plans

OTTAWA, Ontario

The Council of Canadians is sounding the alarm over recommendations the
government received today to formalize and extend a water market system
throughout the province of Alberta. The Alberta government released
reports today containing recommendations from a few select sources,
including an advisory group appointed by the Minister of Environment.

"The implementation of these recommendations would open the door to
full private water markets, which have wreaked havoc on the environment
in countries like Australia and Chile," warns Maude Barlow, national
chairperson of the Council of Canadians. "Letting the market decide who
will have access to water violates the public trust doctrine, a
principle of common law which regards water as belonging equally to all
peoples and managed by governments on their behalf."

"The Alberta government has clearly decided that it is not interested
in other potential solutions to the province's looming water crisis
besides turning Alberta's water over to the market system," says Scott
Harris, Prairies Regional Organizer for the Council of Canadians. "This
is an obvious attempt to frame the discussion in forthcoming public
consultations to focus exclusively on market-based solutions."

The Minister's Advisory Group report recommends further entrenching the
water transfer system which now exists in the South Saskatchewan River
Basin and extending it to entire province. The Council of Canadians
warns that this plan would give water resources up to the highest
bidder forcing cash-strapped municipalities to compete with big oil and
other large industries for increasingly scarce water resources.

While expanding the market for water allocation transfers to the entire
province and compelling all users to participate in the market, the
minister's advisory group also recommends removing much of the
government oversight in approving transfer applications.

The Council of Canadians is calling instead for the Alberta government
to adopt a public trust doctrine that makes governments responsible for
distributing water according to the public interest. The group is
demanding that such a policy also establish a hierarchy of use that
places environmental needs, the right to water, local food production
and cultural use above the commercial use of water.

"This highlights the lack of federal legislative safeguards in Canada
allowing provinces to sell off water resources," says Meera
Karunananthan, national water campaigner for the Council of Canadians.
"A water market in Alberta sets a dangerous trend with regards to the
management of water resources in Canada."

The organization is calling for a national water policy that recognizes water as a human right and a public trust.

Founded in 1985, the Council of Canadians is Canada's leading social action organization, mobilizing a network of 60 chapters across the country.

Office: (613) 233-4487, ext. 249