"Security Underground" report and Nanos poll show how to finance groundwater mapping and monitoring
TORONTO, May 28, 2015 /CNW/ - With climate change as a backdrop, Canadian governments and companies need to adopt a new royalty system to pay for critically-needed groundwater mapping and monitoring to ensure these resources are conserved for public use now and into the future.
Several of Canada's leading water experts and users gathered in Toronto on May 28, 2015 at a symposium convened by the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs Program on Water Issues to discuss how to increase funding needed to protect Canada's groundwater. Speakers included Ralph Pentland, former principal author of Canada's Federal Water Policy, David McLaughlin, former President and CEO of the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, Ian Binnie, former Canadian Supreme Court Justice, a representative of Nestlé Waters Canada, and senior water protection agency officials from the provinces of Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan. They critiqued the current approach to managing groundwater in Canada and mapped out a path to improved sustainability of the resource.
McLaughlin noted in his new policy report, Security Underground: Financing Groundwater Mapping and Monitoring in Canada that "groundwater is Canada's hidden natural resource, but the importance of this resource to our environment, health, and economy is neither understood nor appreciated. It is a fundamentally important natural resource with over 10 million Canadians depending on it for their domestic use. It is critical to the health of many streams and wetlands and many economic sectors, particularly agriculture, depend on access to groundwater to sustain their operations".
He noted that huge amounts of groundwater are given away to private users for little to nothing in terms of fees, licenses, rents or royalties. And too often, in resource development projects, mapping and monitoring the quantity and quality of groundwater is done after the fact. This is taking place in a time when stress on groundwater is increasing due to population growth and urbanization, resource development (particularly in the energy sector), climate change impacts, agricultural intensification and practices, and contaminated sites. These stresses mean that local groundwater supplies can unknowingly be at risk.
Despite its social, environmental and economic importance, the cornerstone of groundwater protection – mapping and monitoring – is woefully underfunded in this country. "It is clear that we need a new approach on funding groundwater mapping and monitoring", said McLaughlin "based on a dedicated royalty system that respects both the public interest and private needs."
A keynote paper by Ralph Pentland argued that Canada needs to adopt "something akin to a public trust law" to guide government policy and judicial decisions on groundwater management. "The essence of public trust law is to preserve public access to important resources such as groundwater, and conserve these resources for the use of the public now and into the future", said Pentland.
Importantly, the symposium included release of a Nanos poll commissioned by the Munk School's Program on Water Issues that explored Canadians' views on groundwater. The poll reveals that 96% of Canadians think it is important that groundwater use remain sustainable and not be exhausted by overuse, 81% think it is important that public access to groundwater be given priority over private access, and 78% are opposed to private companies taking as much groundwater as they need to run their businesses at no cost to them. Fully 92% of Canadians think it is important that there be more investment in groundwater mapping and monitoring, 90% want private users to contribute to paying for this, and 53% believe that the investment in groundwater mapping and monitoring should come from a combination of more government funding and more private company payments through water royalties.
"We can achieve secure, stable funding for groundwater mapping and monitoring," said McLaughlin, "but we can only do this by implementing new financing systems that include water royalties on corporate groundwater users and dedicated government funding."
Background papers, the Nanos poll, and the webcast of today's panel can be found at http://powi.ca
SOURCE Program on Water Issues, Munk School, University of Toronto
Image with caption: "Figure 1 - Percentage of Canadians Dependent on Groundwater (CNW Group/Program on Water Issues, Munk School, University of Toronto)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20150528_C8231_PHOTO_EN_17131.jpg
For further information: Adèle Hurley, Program on Water Issues, [email protected], 416-946-8919