Opinion Column

B.C. water pricing policy is all wet

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

Nestle is under fire over the use of B.C. water. 
FILE PHOTO

Nestle is under fire over the use of B.C. water. FILE PHOTO

“The province is not seeking to make a profit from water.” ― B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak

No kidding – not at $2 and 25 cents per million litres of cold, clean B.C. water!

But seriously, minister, do you think that waiting until 2016 just to start charging multinational giant Nestle, other water bottlers, oil and gas frackers, amusement parks, garbage dumps and everyone else who wants millions of litres of water is appropriate?

Tens of thousands of British Columbians are outraged their province will be giving away water for pennies. And until then, it’s free.

Forget about making a profit – when Nestle can buy their 265 million litres for $596.25 – you aren’t even covering the cost of government writing up and mailing the invoice!

But Surrey residents pay $1.63 per 1,000 litres at home; at those rates Nestle would instead be paying $1,630 per million litres and $431,950 for what it bottled last year.

So the Nestle giveaway is why last week’s column went viral, with over 25,000 Facebook shares or recommends and thousands of retweets.

And it’s also why a petition from consumer activists SumOfUs.org has well over 160,000 signatures demanding B.C. charge higher water rates.

But there’s a faint hope clause – the B.C. legislature just returned for an emergency sitting to pass laws allowing Petronas to develop its liquefied natural gas project.

If the BC Liberal government cared as much about B.C. water as they obviously do about LNG, we could get the water rates increased in less than a week.

Certainly Nestle, bottlers and industrial users – like breweries – are not enjoying the scrutiny and some have pointed out that they are accessing water aquifers, not the groundwater our cities and town depend on.

Fair enough, but water is water, and it is in exceedingly short supply as the heat wave and drought continue to force more extreme H2O restrictions.

But the one group of British Columbians who can change the water rates and start charging a fair fee for this incredibly valuable resource are all in Victoria right now – the BC Liberal government MLAs led by Premier Christy Clark who hold a majority.

And they should be held to account.

It’s time to admit B.C.’s water pricing and policies are all wet.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read his blog at http://billtieleman.blogspot.com or Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman  

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