The Province's discussion paper Pricing B.C.'s Water has garnered
a wide range of opinions since being released in March. As
part of the public consultation effort regarding the new Water
Sustainability Act (now at 2nd reading in the
legislature), the public was given until April 8 to provide its
views on water pricing and the Province's water pricing
Although broad in scope, the water-pricing consultation excluded
fees and rentals for hydroelectric purposes, by far the biggest
source of water fees and rentals for the Province (although as part
of its 10-Year Rate Plan for BC Hydro the Province has said it will eliminate the highest
level of water rentals in 2019 in regard to annual energy output in
excess of 3000 GWh). Also excluded, by implication, are
water utility rates under the Water Utility Act.
The pricing principles in the Province's discussion paper
fairness and equity
implications for water users – costs distributed in a
impact on water resources – e.g. consumptive uses to be
assessed higher than non-consumptive uses
cost recovery, where cost refers to the Province's cost of
regulating water resources, including "a fair return to the
food security and public health
Like the better-known utility rate design principles of James
Bonbright, some of the Province's water pricing principles are
in tension with each other (efficiency vs. implications for water
users, for example), and internally (fairness in this context
meaning non-discriminatory, and equity referring to the value of
the particular water use). These and other issues were picked
up on by various commentators on the discussion paper. Here
are some quotes selected to reflect the wide range of views
"As an economist, I suggest that the BC government
auction water extraction permits every year to agricultural,
industrial and municipal (utility) users. Every one of these
users will have a reason why they should not pay. That's
not relevant, given their desire for the same resources."
And from the same commentator:
"Businesses ALL need to pay the same price [for water
extraction]. Some businesses will NOT be competitive at these
prices. The solution is NOT to sell them water more
From Mister and Missus home owner: "A fair return
to the crown: Mister and Missus home owner should not be
burdened by a further tax increase which may happen with this
proposal.... Will this bill see the individuals paying more
than their fair share while the business sector laughs all the way
to the bank?"
One commentator provided a detailed proposal for an independent
agency to monitor water and groundwater use, and make the
associated data available to the public: not a bad idea in
principle thinks this blogger but why a new government agency would
be required to perform this function given the existence of
existing agencies whose mandate could be expanded is unclear (e.g.
Water Comptroller, BC Utilities Commission, Environmental
The substantive and process challenges for the Province in its
development of a new water pricing regime will be daunting.
The consultation principles and stakeholder feedback are all very
high-level, yet will need to meaningfully reflected in a new
schedule of fees and rentals under the Water Sustainability
Act that will be as detailed and complex as the current scheme
set out in Schedule A to the Water Regulation. It
seems quite likely that some time will pass before we will see new
enactments regarding water pricing in BC.
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In Bank of Montreal v Bumper Development Corporation Ltd, 2016 ABQB 363, the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench enforced the "immediate replacement" provision in the Canadian Association of Petroleum Landmen 2007 Operating Procedure...
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