What Price is Right?

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Last fall, many of you worked hard to mobilize your supporters to weigh in on the Legislative Proposal for a new Water Sustainability Act for BC. Thousands of submissions later, and five years after consultations began, BC finally has a new set of laws to help us manage our freshwater. On March 11th, 2014 the British Columbia Government introduced Bill 18 – Water Sustainability Act into the Legislature for First Reading. If approved, the new Act will come into force in the spring of 2015, after supporting regulations have been developed. As part of the new Water Sustainability Act (WSA), government is looking into changing the way it prices water. This restructuring will likely mean bumping up ridiculously low fees for current surface water users and new costs for larger groundwater users.

Last fall, many of you worked hard to mobilize your supporters to weigh in on the Legislative Proposal for a new Water Sustainability Act for BC. Thousands of submissions later, and five years after consultations began, BC finally has a new set of laws to help us manage our freshwater. On March 11th, 2014 the British Columbia Government introduced Bill 18 – Water Sustainability Act into the Legislature for First Reading. If approved, the new Act will come into force in the spring of 2015, after supporting regulations have been developed. As part of the new Water Sustainability Act (WSA), government is looking into changing the way it prices water. This restructuring will likely mean bumping up ridiculously low fees for current surface water users and new costs for larger groundwater users.

The public is invited to submit feedback to Government as it explores new options for water pricing in BC. We have until April 8th, 2014 to provide comments on the pricing principles on the Water Sustainability Act Blog. Let's not underestimate this opportunity - if we set the price “right”, we have a chance to entrench a community-wide commitment to water sustainability, financial stability, equality, and innovation in BC! Join us for a special webinar What Price is Right? Pricing Water and BC's new Water Sustainability Act on Monday March 24, 2014 10-11AM Pacific; 11-noon Mountain. Register here.

At 142 sections and nearly 150 pages – 15 of which are definitions alone – the lengthy new Act certainly gives us a lot to chew on. In many ways, government has delivered what it promised. The WSA contains new groundwater legislation, protects water for ecosystems, provides for agricultural water reserves, introduces water sustainability plans to regulate water use in specific watersheds, and opens the door to watershed governance and local control. But there remain critical gaps that are not addressed by the new Act. These include no acknowledgement of First Nations rights and title, leaving the “First in Time, First in Right” allocation system intact, explicitly enabling the renewal of short-term water approvals for industrial use (a case currently before the courts), and squeezing out the possibility of applying the Public Trust Doctrine. Perhaps most significantly, the lack of regulations in this “shell” legislation makes the Act highly vulnerable to discretionary decision-making. This means we will all need to work hard to ensure a good public participation process is in place for the regulatory development phase over the coming year(s). Stay tuned for how we can do this together! Haven't had a chance to read the new Water Sustainability Act yet? Check out some reflections from West Coast Environmental Law, Environmental Law Centre, and One Cowichan. Did you miss our webinar on March 24th? Listen to a recording here. Password: pricing.


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