Victory! Bow River not up for sale – for now

The Council of Canadians is thrilled to hear that the Alberta government has taken steps to preserve the water in the Bow River – at least for the immediate future.
In last month’s e-news, we told you about an application that the Eastern Irrigation District (EID) made to Alberta Environment to amend their current water licence to allow them to extract water from the Bow River for commercial purposes.

The EID already holds the largest water licence in the region, and the amendment would have given them power to re-allocate and sell water for other uses, including municipal, non-irrigational and non-agricultural activities. The Council of Canadians was concerned that the amendment would set a dangerous precedent – triggering a string of similar applications from other agri-business consortiums and effectively putting most of Alberta’s water up for sale.
Within moments of hearing about the EID’s request, the Council of Canadians took action. Council members from the area surrounding the Bow River (and therefore deemed “directly affected” by the Alberta government) sent in letters of protest. The Council demanded that private industry not be given that much power over a public resource. We stressed the need for the monitoring and regulation of water to be kept in public hands.
It seems that our message got through to the Alberta government. Last month, Alberta Environment announced that they were deferring a decision on the EID application.
“Although this isn’t the first irrigation district to request an amendment to its licence, the state of Alberta’s water resources has shifted significantly,” said Environment Minister Rob Renner. “With most of the South Saskatchewan River Basin closed to new licence applications, concerns have been raised about the Alberta government maintaining its authority to oversee water resources. We need to ensure water is allocated in a fair manner with opportunity for all users to have access to water resources.”
According to Susan Howatt, the Council’s national water campaigner, “we have won this small battle, but the larger war is ahead of us and we need all the help we can get to make Alberta choose their environment over short term economic gain.”
For more information on what you can do to help protect water in Alberta and across Canada, visit

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