By Anne Jardine
Smokey Sinclair Creek by Anne Jardine / Smokey Kootenay Lake by Wayne Stetski
In this election campaign, Kootenay-Columbia NDP Candidate Wayne Stetski wants to get down to the basics – the things everybody needs.
“Along with food security, we need to be talking about water security. No water, no communities, no life,” he states bluntly. The climate crisis is leading the world towards a water and a food security crisis.”
In answer to a question about water bottling plant start-ups from a member of the Golden Water Protection Committee, Wayne replies, “I am opposed to water bottling plants in the Kootenays. Was opposed when I was MP and even more opposed today given climate change and its impact on future water supplies. If you run out of water, you have no community. We need to be planning for the future well-being of all of our communities now with respect to water.”
A recent check with the BC Government Director of Authorizations for the Kootenay region shows no new application approvals at this point. It is unlikely that any will be processed for quite some time. According to their spokesperson, “The region has been focused on drought response this summer.”
“When I was MP,” Wayne recalls, “I always kept a close eye on international trade agreements to be sure they wouldn’t sneak water in there. We should never make trade agreements where we have to provide water anywhere else. We do have federal laws prohibiting bulk water exports. But water bottling is something that has so far slipped through the cracks. If you want to get serious about it, you can stop it by legislation.”
A recent University of Victoria Environmental Law research report calls for a water bottling plant moratorium until such legislation can be properly considered.
Wayne keeps abreast of water science, by following the research of Living Lakes Canada, which is part of Living Lakes International, a global network of over 120 member groups working to mitigate climate impacts on some of the most ecologically rich lakes, rivers, and wetlands around the world. The Columbia Basin Water Hub is the open-source database they have set up here in our watershed. Their data collection includes maps, measurements, shoreline and waterbody risk assessments, as well as recommended stewardship and management guidelines. They have been studying the topographical, geological, hydrological, and biological aspects of our watershed for more than twenty years.
“One of the most important things they have been doing in the past few years is measuring and monitoring the levels of groundwater. They are setting a starting point to understanding just how various environmental changes affect the water table over time,” says Wayne. “This work is essential to any planning process.”
Aside from the science, Wayne also tracks activist non-profit groups such as the Fresh Water Alliance of Canada and the Council of Canadians who do the advocacy work to inform public opinion, organize action, and promote government legislation and regulation to protect our water.
Statement from The Fresh Water Alliance of Canada:
We have to admit, we're scared right now. Wildfires, heatwaves, and drought are taking their toll on the province, and we are once again struggling with the effects of water scarcity across BC. The summer of 2021 needs to go down in the history books as the moment elected leaders and industry started prioritizing securing and sustaining our freshwater, rather than taking it for granted.
Statement from the Council of Canadians:
In Canada, there is no national strategy to address urgent water issues, and federal leadership to conserve and protect our water has been missing. We are campaigning for a National Water Policy that will safeguard communities' water. Water is vital to people’s health and livelihoods. Join us in taking action to protect water!
Statement from ndp.ca/commitments/water:
New Democrats are committed to expanding protections for our natural environment, beginning with enshrining the right to a healthy environment in a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights, to ensure all communities can enjoy a guarantee to clean water, land, and air.
“Water. We can’t live without it. The essentials of life are air, water, food, shelter, and energy,” concludes Wayne. “We need to secure equal access to all those essentials. We need a government that is committed to water security for all Canadians.”