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A new report says decisions about Alberta’s water resources must be made in the public interest, based on environmental and community stewardship – not the market.

Alternative Water Futures in Alberta looks at the province’s growing water crisis and the dangers of letting the market control access to water. It also outlines alternative allocation systems that protect the water commons for ecosystems, communities and future generations.

CUPE is part of a coalition co-sponsoring  a five-city tour with the report’s author, Jeremy Schmidt. The tour will set the stage for provincial government consultations in 2012 on reforming the water allocation system.

The government’s initial proposals are for a province-wide deregulated water market. CUPE and its allies are calling instead for a more holistic approach to water governance that’s founded on equity, fairness, sustainability and respect for treaty obligations.

Under a market-based approach, water would be allocated according to ability to pay. Wealthy institutions, corporations and individuals would control the water licenses and would profit from selling access to a public resource.

Far from promoting conservation, water markets have worsened the water crisis in other countries.

Alberta is facing its own unfolding water crisis, as climate change shrinks glaciers and snowpack. CUPE and its allies are clear: updating the province’s approach to water allocation is essential, but a market-based system will only deepen the crisis.

CUPE is co-sponsoring the tour along with the Our Water Is Not For Sale Network, the Council of Canadians, Parkland Institute, Public Interest Alberta and Sierra Club Prairie.