A new Climate Justice Project study from the BC office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives warns that “BC’s water and hydroelectric resources are at risk of being depleted by industrial users, thanks to lax reporting requirements and extremely low water prices”.
The study identifies gaping holes in key information relating to the water that major industries use. For example, of the 31 water licences held by pulp and paper companies — large consumers of water and hydro — only one requires water metering.
“With our government actively encouraging eight new mines and three massive natural gas processing plants in BC by the end of this decade,the strains on our interconnected water and energy resources are approaching a crisis point,” says lead author Ben Parfitt, CCPA resource analyst and POLIS research associate.
The study also notes that water usage fees are so low that industry has little incentive to conserve. For example, natural gas companies are setting global records for water usage in controversial fracking operations in BC, yet pay at most token fees. An Olympic swimming pool’s worth of water in BC costs just $2.75, compared to $175 in Quebec.
“Many municipalities, irrigation districts and others understand the need to conserve water and energy,” says co-author Jesse Baltutis, a researcher on water policy and governance with POLIS. “Where conservation is treated seriously, there’s invariably a commitment to quantifywhat is used and to price it fairly.”