Free water? How come I have to pay?
by mmoher on November 25, 2016 - 11:01pm
Every month you open that water bill you’ve been dreading and are stunned by the amount you have to pay. What if I told you large corporations and industries are pulling trillions of litres of fresh water from Ontario’s watershed for free. CBC’s John Lancaster and Jennifer Fowler reported in 2015 that most water users including agriculture, municipalities, the sand and gravel industry as well as golf courses are not paying a single dime for water.
Water is not only a necessity to humans but for ecosystems too. The article further explains that ecosystems are heavily stressed due to the low water levels from exploitation. These low water levels continue to be depleted due to the growing population, increased demand, development and climate change. The worst part of it all is that 500 trillion litres of fresh water are taken from Ontario’s rivers, aquifers and lakes every year, which is then bottled and sold back to us at an outrageous cost. The frustrating part of it all is that companies are making millions of dollars because they can remove as much water as they please and do not have to pay for extraction. If this keeps up, it is just a matter of time before all the marine life is gone and we are left out to dry. Yes, that pun was intended.
One thing is for certain and that is the government needs to act now. The government needs to start preserving the freshwater before it is too late. In this case, the government should implement substantive policy instruments, specifically economic instruments to control the management of fresh water. With that said, the government should impose a water tax of a sufficient monetary amount in order to change the behaviour of the water users. This would encourage companies to limit their water extraction or they risk being fined. These companies have been getting off the hook for quite some time, as far back as 2006! So it is the time that they pay for the damage they have done, literally!
Money is not the only problem when it comes to the mismanagement of water, conflict comes with it. In this case, there are conflicting ideas of how the water should be used. Each party involved holds a different value on water. On one hand, you have the people who are fighting to save the water, like Ellen Schwartzel, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. Schwartzel wants the water to be conserved because ecosystems are at risk and fears overexploitation. Then you have the selfish party involved, like the water industry and companies. They will do whatever it takes to make a profit by any means necessary, even if it means putting the environment at risk. This conflict can be resolved by the government. They need to step in and take control of the water management so this natural resource is protected.
It is saddening to know that an essential natural resource is quickly depleting and soon enough it will be gone. I truly hope that the government steps in sooner rather than later before this is a problem that we cannot correct. Water extraction will continue to happen whether we like it or not, but policies should be imposed to use the water in a smart manner and to allow for regeneration. This has the potential to reduce conflicts because both parties can get what they want to some degree – protection of watersheds and revenue.
Lancaster, J. and Fowler, J. (2015). Ontario mismanaging its water, environmental commissioner says. Retrieved 22 November 2016 from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-environmental-commissioner-water-1.3302836