Our water supply is in peril

River water is in the news. Metals in the water (Advocate — Aug. 31) recounted struggles over the science of pollution in the Athabasca river system.

River water is in the news. Metals in the water (Advocate — Aug. 31) recounted struggles over the science of pollution in the Athabasca river system. The Advocate story: Gender bending fish hint at potential disaster (July 30) and the editorial comment about our own Red Deer River (Aug. 4) pointed to contamination issues upstream.

Red Deer County councillors are dealing with gravel permit applications in the aquifer where the Medicine River empties into the Red Deer River. Another is proposed for a flood plain on the west bank of the river (Gravel pit clashes with neighbours, Advocate — Aug. 18). They include applications to allow asphalt plants, known to leak benzene (one of the deadlier carcinogens) and other chemicals into groundwater making its way into Red Deer drinking water.

Laws concerning water use and pollution govern activities of provincial departments — Environment, Agriculture, Forestry and Transportation, to name a few.

Federal fish and wildlife laws, sharing water across provincial and national borders and water quality also apply.

The Alberta government proposes a consolidated Alberta Water Act, which will create water markets, allocating water and controlling usage.

In 2004, a peer review panel criticized Alberta Environment. Rationing out environmental sins would be an accurate description of Alberta Environment’s role.

Globally, Canada is one of very few countries that did not vote at the United Nations for the right to clean water and sanitation.

A better approach would be to legislate fair water allocation, taking into account environmental, social, health and water-sharing needs, rather than giving water and its quality over to those with the biggest checkbooks.

That way, citizens could influence decisions through democratic processes rather than learning about our water supply being bought and sold behind closed doors.

Ken Collier, Chair

Council of Canadians

Red Deer and Area Chapter