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Blueprint Alberta: H20



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The Expert's Opinion

Why I care about water
Maureen Bell, Water Conservation Trust of Canada


I care about water, as a mother, a citizen and as a lawyer. We need good rules around water. In many jurisdictions in the world people fight over water – we don’t need to follow their lead. In jurisdictions such as New South Wales in Australia legislation is strong and prioritizes the use of water, giving highest priority to the environment, then high-priority to municipal supplies, animal and domestic use, then high priority for permanent plantings for agricultural production, then general security, then supplementary uses. We don’t have such a system of priorities. Our only priority is first in time. If the rules are clear, if the public process is good (although agreement may not be unanimous) as a community, the best choices will be made.

Alberta has not prioritized its uses for water; rather, the hierarchy was removed from the Water Resources Act and under the new Water Act (1999) the mechanisms are now in place to develop a water market which can effectively move water to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, no one is bidding to leave water in the stream.

I am currently completing my LL.M. thesis in which I argue that the province does not have jurisdiction over ALL of the water in the stream. Provincial jurisdiction is arguably only over that water which the fish in the stream do not need for healthy survival. The argument considers the division of powers between the federal jurisdiction over fisheries and provincial jurisdiction over property, public lands and natural resources. It raises the issue of the vitality of the fisheries in Alberta, and therefore the rivers, in this province. I hope as a result this argument, debate, and increased awareness that there will be reconsideration of Alberta’s water strategy to overuse the rivers and begin the return of water to the over stressed rivers in Southern Alberta.

Together, with other individuals interested in the protection and conservation of water, we have created the Water Conservation Trust of Canada to hold water interests in trust for recreation, water management and fish habitat –ultimately for the stream. It is our intention to encourage those who conserve water to donate their water to the Trust, including those municipalities whose citizens have collectively conserved water. When citizens make an effort to reduce their use of water on a long term basis, that water can be made available to the stream through the trust. If the water is not dedicated for the stream, it is available for further use by existing and new licensees negating the conservation efforts. The Trust will also reward those who have a good water conservation strategy; a contribution to the trust will be publicly recognized in the appropriate forums.

We welcome your conservation efforts, your respect for water and the land that impacts the water and your contributions to and support for the Water Conservation Trust of Canada.

More Experts

David Pryce
Vice President, Western Canada Operations, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers

Camille Dow Baker
President & CEO of the Centre for Affordable Water & Sanitation Technology (CAWST)

Robert D. Tarleck
Mayor, City of Lethbridge

Oliver M. Brandes
Water Sustainability Project at the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance

Dr. Mary Griffiths
Senior Policy Analyst, The Pembina Institute

C. Lacombe
Editor of Irrigating Alberta

Mark Bennett
Bow River Basin Council

Chris Godwaldt
Alberta WaterSMART

Kerry Brewin
Senior Biologist with Dillon Consulting Limited

Kent Robinson
Acting CAO MD of Rocky View

Maureen Bell
Water Conservation Trust of Canada


The Best of Blueprint Alberta: H20 - Episode 1

The Best of Blueprint Alberta: H20 - Episode 2

The Best of Blueprint Alberta: H20 - Episode 3


Between two and 4½ barrels of water are needed to produce one barrel of oil from the oilsands.

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