What do we mean by water markets and water rights trading?
** UPDATE – We are now able to respond to many of your comments posted to the Living Water Smart Blog. We’re still working through the backlog. Due a widespread server outage – the Living Water Smart Blog, along with many other BC government sites, was down. We apologize for any difficulties this may have caused. Your remaining comments will be posted shortly – thank you for your patience.**
A number of you have questioned the proposals around water markets and water rights trading.
As we noted in our response to an earlier blog comment, there is no intention to privatize BC’s water. Water is vested in the Crown under the current Water Act and this would not change in the proposed Water Sustainability Act.
In Section 5 of the Policy Proposal we’ve identified a range of economic instruments to improve security, water use efficiency and conservation. These include fee-based measures, rebates, liability and assurance regimes and water markets.
Under the current Water Act there are already provisions for transferring a licence, changing the purpose it is used for, or extending rights for use by others. These changes must be authorized by the Comptroller of Water Rights or Regional Water Manager and are subject to the conditions they deem advisable. A notable example is BC Hydro’s authorization to extend use of a portion of its hydropower water right to provide water to Metro Vancouver.
Leading thought and practice, summarized in the Technical Background Report shows that a well designed market can provide flexibility that allows water to be shifted to other users or uses. Water markets may also enhance water flows thereby protecting ecosystems and species. A water market can also be restricted to a particular sector such as agriculture where water conserved through efficiency gains or crop changes could be traded across the sector. Government would establish basic ground rules and conduct audits of water markets to ensure that there are no negative impacts on the environment or other users.
We welcome your comments and questions.