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Will BC’s proposed Water Sustainability Act really be sustainable?

18 October, 2013

British Columbians have been waiting for a new Water Act (our current one is 104 years old and has its problems), and now that wait may be finally coming to an end with today’s release of a “legislative proposal” for a new Water Sustainability Act.  We’ll be releasing our analysis in the coming days and weeks, but we need you to press the government immediately for a strong act that lives up to the promise of “sustainability.”

The government is inviting public comments on the proposed Act between now and November 15th (my birthday!) and we hope that you will provide a comment for strong legislation that protects our invaluable water resources. They offer an overview of the proposal, the full proposal and a powerpoint presentation describing the proposal.  They accept comments through their blog and by email and mail.

This is not a “white paper” – meaning that it does not contain actual draft legislation – but we are told that it is intended to give legislative direction to the government’s legislative drafters. 

There’s also a video from Environment Minister Mary Polak explaining the proposed Act and why the government wants to hear from you. 

She hits many of the right points, but the devil is always in the details, which is why I have my weekend reading cut out for me.  As I said in our press release this morning responding to the launch of the public consultation:

Water, and how we treat our water, is one of those fundamental issues that touches on so much of who we are, what we do, and how we build our economy,” said Andrew Gage, staff lawyer with the West Coast Environmental Law Association. “A weak Water Sustainability Act could fail to deal with current unsustainable and inefficient water use, and could lock in these problems for years to come.  A strong Act could address past over-use, and wasteful use, of water and protect drinking water and fish from over-use, poor oil and gas, logging or mining practices, and other threats.

We will keep you posted over the coming weeks with our thoughts on where the Act is strong, where it is weak and what you can do to press the government for a strong Act.  And feel free to comment, below, about the Act (after you post your thoughts to the government’s blog, of course, since that’s one way that they’re accepting feedback). 

By Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer

Photo courtesy of the Halalt First Nation.