NEWS RELEASE: New research shows majority of British Columbians bracing for future water crises
87% of British Columbians believe the province will face a serious problem if nothing is done to improve the management of water resources in BC.
Released on the heels of record-setting wildfires, drought and floods, new opinion data shows that more than half of British Columbians worry about the potential for a major water crisis in their community.
Another 87% believe the province will face a serious problem if nothing is done to improve the management of water resources in BC, up from 76% in 2013, according to polling results released today by the Canadian Freshwater Alliance.
“British Columbians have endured consecutive water-related crises in recent months, from flooding to wildfires to droughts. This polling shows that people are bracing themselves for a worsening situation if the government doesn’t get proactive about defending our water and communities,” said Coree Tull, Organizing Director at the Canadian Freshwater Alliance.
Twenty-three BC communities were under a local state of emergency this spring due to floods. This summer also marked the worst fire season on record, prompting another state of emergency that was lifted on Friday. Despite brief rains over the weekend, nearly 90% of BC remains at stage 3 drought or higher. The province’s top water manager has described conditions in some parts of the province -- including Vancouver Island and the North -- as similar to 2015’s devastating province-wide drought. Meanwhile, a report released by the province in August shows 1 in 5 aquifers, a primary source of drinking water, are considered stressed.
Conducted by McAllister Opinion Research in June, the poll shows a majority of British Columbians are worried about different water-related problems: 69% are concerned about water scarcity, two-thirds about flooding, 77% about contaminated drinking water, and 85% are concerned about pollution of BC’s rivers, lakes and streams. In terms of a significant event, 57% of British Columbians are concerned about a major water crisis in their community in the next few years or are already experiencing one.
Despite British Columbians’ worry over dwindling water supplies, 3 in 4 agree that BC’s freshwater problems are primarily a management and planning issue, compared to a scarcity issue.
“The public is right when they say the problem here is water management,” Tull said. “The provincial government has tools it can use under our primary water law, the Water Sustainability Act, to protect communities and ecosystems. The problem is they’re not using them.”
“This poll signals there is a clear public mandate for the government to be more proactive on water protection.”
While the Water Sustainability Act lays out a strong mandate for the province around managing water resources, many of the tools within it are not being used. Policies, including those related to ensuring enough water exists for nature, have not been turned into regulations that are legally binding and enforceable across the province. Therefore the Act is often applied reactively or on a case-by-case basis.
The CFA and other water leaders believe that B.C. communities need the ability to more easily trigger critical flow orders that protect streams in distress, and to create enforceable watershed plans so that the necessary management and legal mechanisms are in place to help prevent water crises and better respond to them when they arise.
The Canadian Freshwater Alliance, a project of Tides Canada, is a national organization that helps advance freshwater protection across the country through grassroots engagement and capacity building.
Download the complete polling memo:
For more information, please contact:
Coree Tull, Organizing Director, Canadian Freshwater Alliance
Megan Peloso, BC Communications Lead, Canadian Freshwater Alliance
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