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PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2015 1:46 pm 
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B.C. water pricing policy is all wet
Bill Tieleman

“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.

(July 14, 2015, 24 Hours)

PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2015 1:49 pm 
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Water price absurd as B.C. faces drought

“That means that as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution.” ― Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, chairman, Nestle, 2005

As British Columbians face increasing water restrictions due to a heat wave, forest fires and drought, the province must answer why it is charging bottled water companies only $2.25 per million litres taken from B.C. sources.
Or why companies using huge amounts of water for hydraulic fracturing -- or “fracking” -- to extract oil and natural gas pay the same price.
And with Nestle bottling 265 million litres of B.C. water a year for the princely sum of just $596.25, while customers pay $2.25 for each bottle in some places, Brabeck-Letmathe’s controversial comments that water is a “foodstuff” that should have a “market value” deserve more attention.
“Personally, I believe it’s better to give a foodstuff a value so that we’re all aware that it has its price, and then that one should take specific measures for the part of the population that has no access to this water,” Brabeck-Letmathe said in 2005, when he was CEO of Nestle.
Later, Brabeck-Letmathe backtracked after an international firestorm erupted, saying he does “not deny that clean and safe water to drink or for basic hygiene is a human right.”
But even if water should have a “market value,” surely it is far more than B.C.’s pathetically low price. Nova Scotia charges $140 per million litres for many purposes and Quebec bills $70 for bottling water.
And B.C.’s cut-rate fee is charged not only to water bottlers, but also other industrial users, including sewage disposal and garbage dumps.
But lord have mercy on the poor Vancouver homeowner who waters their lawn on the wrong day or time.
The fine for breaking current water restrictions is a whopping $250.
For that kind of money, you could buy 111 million litres of water -- but only if you were Nestle or an oil company.
When big businesses can get good, clean B.C. water for $2.25 a million litres while the little guy can’t use a few dozen without risking a fine over 100 times more than that, the government’s logic is clear as mud.

(July 7, 2015, 24 Hours)

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