After four years of development, Bill 18 – Water Sustainability Act was introduced into the Legislature on March 11, 2014. Before becoming law, the Bill must pass several more stages including second reading, committee, report and third reading before receiving Royal Assent. You can follow the progress of Bill 18 here.
Throughout development of the new Act, British Columbians have consistently ranked water as one of the province’s most valuable natural assets. To implement the new Act and fully realize its benefits, government is contemplating changes to water pricing. Throughout the public engagement process, many British Columbians expressed support for increasing water rates to better reflect the value of water to people, the environment and the economy, including new fees and rentals for large groundwater users. Pricing water is complicated and specific rates have not been determined yet. The last major review was conducted over ten years ago and there are lots of factors to consider in setting rates.
The detailed Legislative Proposal that we released last fall included a short discussion of water pricing (page 71) and we also provided some additional background in an October 2013 Blog Post. We’ve taken your feedback and further refined a set of principles, described in the short paper Pricing BC’s Water. Over the next four weeks, we invite British Columbians to comment on the principles which are also reproduced below.
Which principles are most important to you? How should they be used to shape water prices? The principles and your comments will be used to guide the development of pricing options that will be presented to Government later this year for decision. Telling us what’s most important to you will help us develop balanced, practical options that have the potential to do the most good for British Columbia and our precious water supply.
Share your thoughts below by leaving a comment on the Blog.
Principles to inform water pricing
- Simplicity: The approach and rationale for water pricing should be easy to understand and predictable. Individuals and businesses should know how and when pricing could change so they can plan and budget their costs accordingly.
- Fairness and equity: Fairness should be reflected in surface and groundwater being treated as one resource and subject to the same pricing structure. In addition, similar uses of water should be subject to similar pricing. Equitable pricing should reflect differences in the value of water based on the type of right granted, intended use, location or scarcity of water.
- Implications for water users: All British Columbians benefit directly and indirectly from B.C.’s water resources. Pricing of water should distribute the costs of water management across users so that the effect on licensees and citizens is reasonable and manageable and enables business competitiveness.
- Impact on the water resource: Water pricing should reflect the impact of the intended purpose or activity on the resource. For example, water that is consumed and removed from the watershed or aquifer should be assessed differently than non-consumptive uses.
- Cost recovery: Water pricing should support sustainable water management and generate sufficient revenue to recover the costs of managing the water resource. This includes science, monitoring, planning and facilitating community involvement, regulation and enforcement. Costs to users should also reflect a fair return to the Crown for use of a public resource.
- Efficiency: Water pricing should motivate users to demand only the amount of water that is required for the intended purpose. Pricing should incent the use of non-potable water, encourage freshwater conservation, promote innovation and also facilitate government’s efficient administration and management of the resource.
- Food security and public health: Water pricing should recognize the essential contribution of water to food security. Food security is a prerequisite for healthy nutrition and foundational to human and community health.