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Message to Renner: Our Water Is Not for Sale

Campaign to challenge move to provincial market for water

8 Jul 2010

Our Water is Not for Sale, a network of organizations and individuals from all corners of Alberta is launching a campaign to call on Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner to stop plans to introduce legislation to establish a province-wide water market.

The government is about to make major, irreversible changes to how we allocate water throughout Alberta. According to recommendations released by the provincial government, it is clear it is moving towards a system of water markets to determine future water allocation. The plan would create a deregulated market system that would give control of our water to a handful of senior licence holders who would profit by selling off a resource they were historically given for free.

"We are in a water crisis. Throughout Alberta we have record low river flows and growing human and economic demands. In the South Saskatchewan River Basin we have already seen the reality of over-allocation," explains Sheila Muxlow, Interim Director with the Sierra Club Prairie. "We need water policy reforms that ensure water rights are protected for our ecosystems, basic human needs and future generations."

"There's no doubt that our water allocation system can't handle the pressures we're seeing, and needs to be updated," adds Scott Harris, Prairie Regional Organizer with the Council of Canadians. "But government plans to simply let the market decide who has access to water and who doesn't – at the same time as they remove mucch of the government oversight – will make the situation worse, not better."

"First Nations have been the stewards of the water since time immemorial," asserts Joseph Jobin, Environmental Manager for the Treaty 8 First Nations. "The Assembly of Treaty Chiefs has rejected the proposals for water market expansion in Alberta through clear resolutions, but the government continues to pursue a path that will undermine our Treaty rights. This is unacceptable."

"Many municipalities are already struggling with water scarcity, so we know that decisions about how we allocate water have a fundamental impact on whether our municipalities and citizens will continue to thrive in the future," says Linda Sloan, Edmonton Ward 1 City Councilor. "So it's important that we get it right. That's why the province needs to look at all the options and why the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association wants to examine the implications for municipalities before sweeping changes are made."

"Farmers know better than anyone how critical water is," says Doug Scott, Alberta board member with the National Farmers Union. “Albertans understand the importance of local food production, and don't want to see a system where Alberta's farmers will be forced to compete for water on the open market with large corporations with deep pockets."

"Water is a human right and a sacred trust, not a commodity to be bought, sold and traded," stresses the Very Reverend Bill Phipps, the former Moderator of the United Church of Canada. "Values of ecological integrity, justice, equity, and fair access should be at the heart of how we make choices about water, and those aren't the values that are going to come out of a market for water."

Our Water is Not for Sale has sent an open letter signed by 45 organizations and individuals to Minister Renner calling on him to develop a water allocation system that prioritizes ecosystem health and basic human needs rather than basing access to water on the ability to pay, to explore a full range of policy options before considering changes to the Water Act, and to conduct broad and meaningful public consultations before new legislation is introduced.

Other organizations and individuals can continue to sign on to the open letter, get more information about the review and take action at www.ourwaterisnotforsale.com.

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For more information, contact:

  • Russell Charlton, Public Interest Alberta 780-420-0471
  • Scott Harris, Council of Canadians 780-233-2528
  • Sheila Muxlow, Sierra Club Prairie 780-660-0312

Posted July 9, 2010 by AEN

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