Majority Want Greater Protection for BC’s Fresh Water Resources | WWF-Canada

Majority Want Greater Protection for BC’s Fresh Water Resources

Posted on 22 November 2010
Mountains and forests make up the coastline of the Skeena River near Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada.
© Mike Ambach / WWF-Canada
Vancouver, November 22, 2010 – Ninety-four per cent of British Columbians say they want protection of nature, wildlife and species made a top priority in new provincial water rules, according to a poll released today. Nine in ten British Columbians say fresh water is our most precious resource.

The McAllister Opinion Research poll, commissioned by the Vancouver Foundation and WWF-Canada, reports that nine in ten citizens, (91 per cent) say fresh water is BC’s most precious resource, while 86 per cent say fresh water is “extremely important” to the prosperity and quality of life in the province.

While the majority favour new rules to protect BC’s freshwater ecosystems, a surprising 84 per cent are unaware the province is currently pursuing major reforms to its century-old Water Act, with next steps expected before the end of this year.

“It’s time for a modern Water Act for a modern British Columbia,” says Tony Maas, WWF-Canada Freshwater Program Director. “These poll results confirm public support for the protection of freshwater resources and we encourage the government to ensure this important legacy for the people of BC.”

While a slight majority of poll respondents say today’s levels of water use are sustainable, two out of three British Columbians believe the rules currently governing water use are not enough to protect against future threats to availability.

More than nine in ten respondents support new measures ranging from stricter rules for managing industrial and municipal water use; to water rights based on the needs of communities rather than first rights of access.

“Vancouver Foundation recognizes the critical role water plays in so many aspects of our lives. Fresh water - particularly for nature’s needs - is of fundamental importance to the health and well-being of communities across the province,” says Mark Gifford, Vancouver Foundation Program Director.

A majority (64 per cent) of those polled in both rural (60 per cent) and urban (68 per cent) regions of the province say stricter rules to protect fresh water would not harm the BC economy. Younger urban males aged 18-35 are strongly represented in this group.

Asked about how BC should update rules for protecting fresh water, a majority say they favour new measures such as:
• Stricter rules for managing industrial and municipal water use (89 per cent).
• Using science to inform water management decisions (89 per cent).
• Requiring commercial enterprises to obtain licences for groundwater use (89 per cent).
• Requiring active monitoring and reporting of all water use by industry and municipalities (91 per cent).

Respondents were also asked to rank priorities for water management in times of scarcity after drinking water. Protection of fish and wildlife (45 per cent) is favoured first, agriculture (38 per cent) a close second, followed by industry (9 per cent), hydro (2 per cent) and tourism (1 per cent).

“A small number of countries are leading the way by including nature’s needs in water management laws. We think there’s a great opportunity here for British Columbia to take the lead on water policy nationally and globally – by legally protecting water for nature,” says Maas.

Maas applauds the province’s commitment in its water plan to the protection of ‘environmental flows’ – to ensure there is enough water in a river at all times to maintain healthy and productive ecosystems.
“This principle says nature’s needs come first,” explains Maas. “So when we make decisions about dividing up water use, the first share goes to the river itself.”

For further information:
Jo Anne Walton
604.787.3103 (mobile)

Mountains and forests make up the coastline of the Skeena River near Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada.
© Mike Ambach / WWF-Canada Enlarge