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Water, water everywhere...



Heading to the Pemberton Music Festival?

Please, please bring your own water bottle (not glass) and enjoy the valley's fresh, clean water.

There will be plenty of refilling stations and you will be helping to address one of the worst modern-day scourges of our world — the plastic water bottle.

People around the world throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year. It is estimated that over 80 per cent of all single-use water bottles used in the U.S. simply become litter. Not only that, because of the type of plastic sometimes used only one out of five bottles can be sent to the recycle bin. It is estimated that it actually takes three litres of water to package one litre of bottled water.

If those facts don't encourage you to BYOWB I don't know what will.

Water has been much in the news recently with the long, hot dry spell leading to the province issuing notice that Sea to Sky is experiencing a Level 3 drought — this calls for a minimum 20-per-cent reduction in water use from all municipal, agricultural and industrial users.

That level could be upgraded if current weather conditions continue to have a negative impact on river and stream flows, and water supply, according to a provincial release. The small amount of rain we have enjoyed these last couple of days is doing little to change the situation.

If drought conditions do reach Level 4, the highest rating, the province can decide to temporarily suspend short-term water permits or industrial water licenses in affected areas.

In the last couple of weeks Resort Municipality of Whistler utilities workers have been keeping a very close eye on the level of 21 Mile Creek, for example. With snowpack and rainfall at record lows the creek is a shadow of itself at this time of year. If it gets too low water can no longer be diverted for residents, as the creek's role as a fish waterway must come first.

Whistler's water cannot be taken for granted — though that is how we behave.

Perhaps this is evolving though, and through our changing perceptions we are creating change. Just look at the announcement on July 13 by Premier Christy Clark to take a second look at fees charged to bottled-water companies, amid a public backlash that accused her government of being too generous with the province's water during a summer drought.

Starting Jan.1, 2016, the province was to begin charging Nestlé Waters Canada a fee to cover the administration costs to government of the company's operations, which sees the Swiss-based company pay just $596.25 for the 265 million litres of water it takes annually out of the ground. It then bottles the water and sells it for millions of dollars.

The government's announcement comes as an online petition (SumOfUs.org ) was delivered to it with over 200,000 signatures in opposition to the deal with Nestlé.

The government, though, has been very careful to word the changes to the new Water Sustainability Act, which is the overarching document governing how water is used by business, so as not to commodify water.

Many would argue that a resource as precious as water should not be for sale in any form to anyone, and that by making a different kind of deal with Nestlé, or even another bottled water company in the future, we are selling our water rights down the river, so to speak.

Others argue that we are already selling resources like LNG so why should we treat water any differently?

B.C.'s plan to charge Nestlé $2.25 per million litres compares to the $70 per million litres that Quebec assesses its industrial users, the up to $140 per million litres that Nova Scotia charges, and the $46.25 per million litres Saskatchewan charges — still a drop in the bucket.

Perhaps we should be considering not allowing any company to sell bottled water from B.C.? Surely that is the right move in the long run. How can bottling the public's water for private profit be in the public's interest?

Humans are bags of mostly water and we drink a lot of it every day by itself and in our beverages.

That will be true at the Pemberton Music Festival as well. A study done in 2009 by Stew Denny found that a visitor to the Glastonbury Festival in the U.K used about 13 litres of water a day! If there are 27,000 people at Pemberton per day that's 351,000 litres of water used every day.

(As an aside — festivalgoers please use the porta-potties provided. A festival of 600,000 in Taiwan found that local streams and groundwater were contaminated with ecstasy, ketamine, caffeine, acetaminophen and pseudoephedrine.)

So, cherish the water you enjoy every day, protect it where you can, don't waste it and carry your H2O in a multi-use bottle.


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