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
  • 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.