Public Values

Expanding water markets is not Alberta's best bet — report

Research finds access to water, the environment, and First Nations communities are adversely affected.

Acuña: So far, the Alberta government has only considered reports calling for market-based solutionsEDMONTON, AB, December 5, 2011: A new report released this morning by the University of Alberta's Parkland Institute says an expansion of water markets in Alberta would have adverse effects on the environment, people's access to water and First Nations communities. It also recommends alternatives for dealing with Alberta's current water crisis that would be more in keeping with Albertans' values, and the values that underlie Alberta's historical water laws.

The report, titled Alternative Water Futures in Alberta, comes as the Alberta government prepares to announce its plans for public consultations on the future of water allocation in Alberta — consultations that were first promised over two years ago.

"To date, the Alberta government has only considered reports calling for market-based solutions; this report demonstrates clearly that there are other alternatives, better alternatives," says Parkland's executive director Ricardo Acuña.

  "Considering the flaws in Alberta's existing water framework, and looking at the water problems the province is struggling with, it doesn't make sense to look at it only as an economic issue."

The report's author, Trudeau Scholar Jeremy J. Schmidt, says that it would not only be problematic to build a water market on top of the existing rights regime, but that in many ways markets are actually directly opposed to the foundational ideas that underlie the entire water allocation regime we have today.

"Considering the flaws in Alberta's existing water framework, and looking at the water problems the province is struggling with, it doesn't make sense to look at it only as an economic issue," says Schmidt. "Alberta needs a broader, more comprehensive framework that can be flexible in responding to future uncertainties. The one-size-fits-all market approach the government is considering doesn't fit the bill."

The report also makes a number of concrete recommendations to the provincial government. Some of the key ones include:

•aligning water rights with a system for groundwater regulation;
•recognizing water in situ as fully in use and assessing all existing and future licences for their benefit to Alberta;
•acknowledging in the Water Act that water is a resource to be stewarded in trust for the well-being of the community;
•supporting and recognizing a self-designed and self-governed First Nations water council that is granted authority for water planning in First Nations' territory and which coordinates with other governing bodies;
•enforcing minimum flows for the protection of aquatic ecosystems and human health; and
•reforming licences to proportions of watershed flows rather than absolute quantities.

Related individuals, organizations and significant events
To read the report, please click here.

Links and sources
  New report says markets are a poor solution to Alberta's water woes: Non-market solutions would be better for environment, public interest and First Nations.

Posted: December 13, 2011

Categories:
  Research
  Public services
  Natural resources

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