Water should be an election issue: Barlow

Maude Barlow - Monica Lamb-Yorski photo
Maude Barlow
— image credit: Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

Water should be an important issue in the upcoming B.C. election, said Council of Canadians national chairperson Maude Barlow.

“We need a new water ethic,” Barlow said during a water forum hosted by the COC Williams Lake chapter held at the Gibraltar Room in the lakecity on April 10.

“Everything we do, every law, policy and practice must ask the question ‘what’s the impact on water?’”

The world is polluting, mismanaging and displacing water at astonishing rates, particularly groundwater, Barlow said, noting the United Nations says by 2035 the demand for water in the world will outstrip supply by 40 per cent.

“We have very poor protection for groundwater,” Barlow said. “For the first time there’s limited protection in B.C. but before there was none. This is one of the last jurisdictions in the industrialized world to address its groundwater issues.”

Groundwater needs to be properly mapped in order to ensure the access to water by agriculture, mining, fracking, LNG, bottled water companies and other industries is sustainable, Barlow said, noting 83 per cent of Canada’s bottled water exports come from B.C.

One hundred people attended the forum, some coming from Quesnel and 100 Mile House, and many purchasing Barlow’s book Boiling Point: Government Neglect, Corporae Abuse, and Canada’s Water Crisis.

Joining Barlow to speak at the forum were Jenny Howell, who co-ordinates the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society’s Water Wise program, and Marilyn Baptiste, Xeni Gwet’in First Nation councillor and former chief, and winner of several environmental awards.

Howell said in 2004 and 2005 when the city’s aquifer levels were starting to decline, a water committee was formed with a focus to educate people to use less water.

In 2006 Water Wise was started and Howell created four modules that covered the city’s water and sewage system, water chemistry, water cycle, groundwater, watershed, water quality and conservation.

“We wanted to connect the idea that what you do on land impacts water,” Howell said, noting the modules are interactive and use models, but it is always the city water and sewage tours that are most effective. “The stats from 2016 show we reached 107 classes, 2,203 students, 290 teachers and parents.”

And the education is having a long-term positive impact because in 2014 to 2016 water use was 26 per cent lower than 2003 to 2005.

Baptiste said people should be working together to find different ways of doing things that do not compromise water.

“We fight for our waters, our people and future generations, and by saying that I don’t mean to offend anyone,” Baptiste said. “We need to hold governments in B.C. and Canada accountable because they are elected to speak on our behalf.”

Her people continue to oppose Taseko’s proposed New Prosperity Mine, which she said is a threat to water and health.

“Even though it was rejected two times, Taseko has asked for notice of work to do more drilling. The B.C. government is considering this — hopefully they won’t allow it.”

Baptiste said she hopes during the election campaign parties will quit bashing each other and turn their energy toward focusing on important issues such as water, seniors health, education for youth and sustainability.











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