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CFAX Interview: ACT ED Deborah Harford on BC’s Water ACT

On May 2nd, 2013, CFAX reporter Pamela McCall interviewed ACT ED Deborah Harford (interview begins at 5 minute mark) about the modernization of BC’s Water Act, and what the incoming provincial government should consider once elected on May 13th, 2013.

The Water Act was put in place in 1909, and reflects the priorities and beliefs of that long-ago day. As such, it fails to accommodate new issues such as climate change – which has a profound effect on the hydrological cycle and poses challenges such as floods, droughts, and shifting timing in rain and runoff – as well as population growth, new approaches to resource extraction, and new understanding of the needs of ecosystems and how they can be managed.

Perhaps most significantly, BC is the only province lacking groundwater regulation, something the new Act would establish. Twenty-three percent of British Columbians rely on groundwater for their water supply, yet we do not know how much is in our aquifers, nor do we control who extracts groundwater and what it is used for.

With industries such as shale gas poised for massive expansion in the province, it is important to first take stock of our supplies and plan for their judicious use, especially as aquifers cannot be artificially recharged or cleaned.

Other important issues the Act would address include conservation of water (we are profligate consumers), collaborative governance with public input, flows for nature, and the potential for water pricing and metering – something else most of the rest of Canada takes for granted and which can help greatly with control and management of usage.

The good news is that the groundwork for the Act has already been done, with the input of many British Columbians. Next steps required include consultation with First Nations around their needs and values, and drafting of legislation.

If the incoming government chooses to commit to a sustainable water future for BC, we could see implementation of a world-class Water Act, that would establish BC as a leader in Canada, by 2015.

Now’s the time to let the candidates know that this is a priority for British Columbians, their children, and their grandchildren!

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