A Win for Local Organizing

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The graph above is for bottling of plain freshwater in BC. It doesn't include mineral water or flavoured water drinks. It also doesn’t include any licences that haven’t shown up in publicly available provincial records yet, such as Nestlé and Vancouver Water Enterprises (formerly Pacific Water International) and unknown numbers of others. Even without those it’s clear freshwater bottling and export are growth industries in BC, to the consternation of many who think that the harms of putting water into plastic bottles to sell around the world and risks of doing so under BC's regulatory regime outweigh the benefits.

Recently, a classic case of grassroots community organizing put a cork in one water extraction proposal in the Chilliwack River Valley.

The owner of a disused Agricultural Land Reserve property was applying for non-farm use to set up an unstaffed 24/7 filling station for water tankers at an existing well on the property. At a public information session required by the Fraser Valley Regional District the proponent said that as many as twelve 40,000 litre tankers per day might fill up there.

Valley residents had many concerns, among them; receding glaciers and declining water flows, truck traffic on the narrow road winding up the valley, and gaps in the regulatory regime that result in water licences being given out effectively in perpetuity while environmental flows regulations remain unwritten and little is known about what to expect from climate change.

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Ancient Remains, by Shelley Miller

Valley residents studied the issues and shared information by phone, email, in face to face conversations and public meetings. A new organization was formed -- the Chilliwack River Valley Waterkeepers. The documentary Tapped was shown in a local hall with discussion before and after. Many letters were written and a petition circulated. Valley residents presented at the Regional District meeting when the non-farm use application was being considered.

In the end, the Electoral Area Services Committee voted unanimously, in keeping with the near unanimous sentiments of the community, not to forward the application to the Agricultural Land Commission.

We're delighted to note that this was not a WaterWealth campaign! It was a truly organic, grassroots response to the water extraction proposal. By request, WaterWealth provided information by email and at public meetings on things like the Water Sustainability Act and regulations (or lack of them), as well as some technical information from City and Provincial sources.

It was said that no other issue has engaged and unified residents of the Chilliwack River Valley like this one did. We offer congratulations to everyone who worked intensely under tight timelines to make sure the community was informed, and then heard by decision makers. No doubt relationships formed and strengthened among Valley residents will stand them in good stead in future.


 

Special Donation Request

 

WaterWealth depends on support of people who recognize the importance of public
participation in planning and decision making that affects our shared home waters.

 

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DONATE HERE!

 

The Fraser Watershed Restoration Conference 2019 was to bring together Indigenous leaders,
industry experts, government representatives, academics, community officials and conservationists
interested in advancing watershed restoration, and reconciliation with First Nations.

With a number of federal and BC government ministers on the speakers list, WaterWealth
planned to attend to ensure a grassroots community presence at this important
inaugural event of the Fraser Watershed Initiative. While the conference website
doesn't say so presently, we received word that the conference has been cancelled.

Response to the donation request to enable us to attend the conference has been very generous!
We are very grateful for and encouraged by the show of support that response represents. We will
confirm with the conference organizers whether the conference is truly cancelled or whether it might
be rescheduled. We will contact those who have donated toward this special request, to see about
their wishes for these donations, whether refund, or perhaps hold till a later date for the conference,
or put toward other programs. Of course should the reader feel moved to donate to support our work
aside from this conference, donations are always very gratefully received!

 

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