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90% of British Columbians believe water our most precious resource: Poll

BY DAN FUMANO, THE PROVINCE FEBRUARY 26, 2014

Is water more valuable than gas? More than 90 per cent of British Columbians surveyed for a poll released Wednesday said they believe fresh water is B.C.’s most precious resource.

The Similkameen River in southern BC.

The Similkameen River in BC’s southern interior.

The study, Freshwater Insights: A Survey of British Columbian Attitudes on Fresh Water, also says three-quarters of British Columbians believe that if nothing is done to improve management of water resources, it will become a serious problem in the next decade.

The survey was conducted by McAllister Opinion Research, based on online survey interviews with 1,017 adults from around B.C. It was commissioned last year by the Vancouver Foundation and the B.C. Real Estate Foundation.

This week’s release comes as the provincial government is in the process of updating the 104-year-old Water Act, which critics say is badly outdated. The government says it will introduce the new Water Sustainability Act into the legislature this Spring.

“British Columbians are recognizing the government has to do something. It can’t be one of those things where government falls asleep at the switch,” said Oliver Brandes, a co-director of the University of Victoria’s POLIS Project, who helped design of the study.

Brandes has worked on water issues in B.C. for more than a decade, including five years advising the provincial government as a member of the Water Act Modernization Technical Advisory Committee. He said that recently, the topic has become “acutely” important for people in B.C.

“The government making an effort to update the Water Act has helped raise its profile. It both raises the attention of average people, and also, people are realizing how bad we had it, how out-of-date our (legislation) was. People just didn’t know before,” he said. “We assumed someone’s taking care of it. We’re now looking under the hood and realizing there’s nothing there.”

Jack Wong, CEO of the Real Estate Foundation of B.C., which helped commission the report, said the results show that, “Water connects to our prosperity, our quality of life, and a sense of home, British Columbians are saying … British Columbians expect the provincial and federal government to enforce the rules and regulations, and provide scientific expertise.”

While water issues are increasingly being discussed by citizens across B.C. and Canada, they’re also top of mind for some officials in Ottawa and Washington.

In an interview with Postmedia News published this week, Canadian ambassador to the United States Gary Doer said water is set to become the key issue debated between Canada and the U.S. Doer said that as the importance of water diplomacy grows in the coming years, it will make current debates about pipelines “look silly.”

“Five years from now we will be spending diplomatically a lot of our time and a lot of our work dealing with water,” said Doer. “We’re blessed with a lot of water, but we cannot take it for granted.”

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