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BSC2009 – Water Commodification Debate

Water and Sand

For the positive argument, Marcel Boyer debates that water is scarce – lets use water prices to send signals to users. Marcel wrote – “Freshwater exports of the development of Quebec’s blue gold” – Montreal Economic Institute, 2008.

  • The true value of fresh water is the cost of desalination of sea water – about $0.65 US per cubic metre.
  • Need to better control agricultural, heavy industrial and other large water users
  • need a better legal framework
  • proper domestic pricing for water demand management
  • designing and financing investments in water supply, constraints and difficulties = opportunities for imagination
  • NAFTA
  • If it is a commodity, we need to control use across national boundaries (and locally)
  • Do we wait for a crisis, or impose the proper pricing mechanisms and regulatory framework now, ready for the crisis?
  • Harjap Grewal from the Council of Canadians represents the negative argument for the commodification.

    • Public opinion still indicates that people view water as property of the commons
    • Sustainable solutions first, economic issues following
    • Discussed the impact of Coca Cola  on water resources in areas such as India
    • Needs first, profit is not the solution.
    • Protect the rights of communities over those of corporations

    Harjap Grewal asks about Social Justice and equity for all – how does turning water into a global commodity protect these rights? Marcel responds that markets should pay the fair price of energy, water or any other good – saying that it is the rich who is truly benefit.

    My take on the argument is that local regulation on a watershed level is the simplest way to ensure that water is available for all uses. Provincial and Federal Governments should aim to provide a framework that permits local management of their water resources that respects social democratic values.

    Mike Thomas

    Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.