I wish to share my thoughts on the Draft Yukon Water Strategy (comments due June 30).
The strategy names three good goals: 1) water for people, 2) water for nature and 3) water monitoring, knowledge and management. Yet in my opinion, their order should be reversed. Goal 3 should become Goal 1 because we need baseline knowledge: we must measure our water quantity and quality, to know the impact of choices we make to manage it. Goal 2 should be water for nature. Since people are a subset of nature we survive only if nature can sustain us. “Water for People” only fits after the other goals are achieved.
We need to steward our water for the future. Will there be fresh water shortages, within Canada and worldwide? What will be the pressure on us and how will we respond? The Yukon’s abundant resource must be managed carefully.
The strategy coyly mentions work to “prepare for new resource sectors (petroleum).” To what effort at deflecting concerned citizenry do we owe this delicate little phrase? Discussion of the danger of fracking and its obscenely large use and then permanent contamination of water, has been convulsing the Yukon public sphere for over a year. Surely the strategy should mention this elephant in the living room?
Water should be made a public commons, never to be privatized. The strategy must reassure us that industrial and business use will never be prioritized over ecosystem safety and the human right to water – which was affirmed by the U.N. and which Canada agreed to.
We must avoid situations like a recent shortage in northeastern B.C. where the province has dismantled its oversight and disingenuously avoids adding up the impacts of its cumulative and constantly rising industrial use.
Also in B.C., the Holmes River Hydro Project has been split into five smaller projects to avoid environmental assessment, even though its cumulative environmental impact is as big as one mega project. This is a violation of common-sense care for water. We must avoid similar abuses.
Near Guelph, Ontario, abuse of the goals of “water for nature” and “for people” is occurring right now. The Ontario government recently ruled to uphold Nestle’s prior claim to draw water from an aquifer at the shamefully low cost of $3.71 per million litres, to sell as bottled water, even though local people are experiencing drought and water shortages and the aquifer itself is possibly in danger. The Yukon needs a policy on water pricing.
The Draft Yukon Water Strategy must require that our water is measured and that eventually all use is monitored, so that the government knows exactly what is going on with our water and can ensure it is safely managed.