09 December 2015

WaterSmarts: Water and conflict

These examples are worth a read (and a comment). Each answers these questions:
  1. Where is this conflict?
  2. What is the conflict over?
  3. Who are the (2+) sides to the conflict and what are the claims of each side?
  4. How do you assess their claims? Do you support one side more than the other(s)?

  1. British Columbia, Canada
  2. Water price and bottling of BC groundwater
  3. Nestle: Want to keep the status quo/they are paying for the infrastructure so they should not have to pay for the groundwater they are bottling more than the current deal ($2.25 for a million litres of water)
    Government of British Columbia: Government wants to continue with status quo as well. They want to continue to charge for access to the water but not for the water itself. Otherwise, they believe that charging for water will open the door to massive water sales. Ultimately, charging access to water is a means to have more control over the resource.
    People of British Columbia: Nestle is not paying enough for what they claim is their "most precious resource." There are merits to some of the claims from all sides. I do not demonize Nestle for their actions or their position. The water is extremely cheap and profitable so it makes sense for them to hold their position firmly. Though this isn't to say that I support Nestle or bottled water (I rarely if ever buy bottled water and think it's more or less ridiculous in a country with excellent tap water services).
  4. I'd be really interested in hearing your views on this matter, especially with respect to the claim made by the government that if you demand that the province charge Nestle for the water you would open the door to massive water sales. However, I find the position of the government to be tenuous at best. While they may have a point that selling the water and not just access to the water would open the door to water sales they seem to be ignoring the fact that they could actually charge more for access to the water itself. $2.25 for a million litres of water seems incredibly low, especially given the politics surrounding water -- especially when areas of British Columbia are experiencing drought.

  1. Ireland
  2. Pumping water from river system in the West to capital city on East coast
  3. The proponents of the scheme are Dublin City Council and the new national water utility Irish Water. Dublin is put forward by the proponents as a growing city with limited water resources. The major alternative put forward to the river abstraction scheme is desalination at a prohibitive cost. Dublin is projected as growing steadily over the next 35 years with all its readily available resources being used. 350 M L D is put forward as the minimum amount needed to ensure a stable supply.
    Opponents say there are cheaper, more flexible and more environmentally sensible solutions, the first and foremost being the reduction of the current 33% leakage rate of water in the Dublin area. Beyond that, efficiency measures, ground water abstraction and river mouth abstraction are suggested as smaller cheaper and more flexible alternatives. An interesting argument is that the water abstraction proposal is primarily to facilitate growth around the capital and FDI inflow to the East cost capital area. The opponents say that continued concentration of these types of growth around Dublin is inequitable to the rest of the country and promoting lower cost development and investments in other areas of the country would obviate a large portion of Dublin's extra water "need."
  4. The pipeline is a simple, easy, big engineering project that provides a major safety margin to Irish Water and Dublin City Council. A water shortage in Dublin would be a political disaster for any government, especially given the large proportion of parliamentary seats in Dublin. Most of the alternatives are not as certain or easy as a big pipeline, nor do they increase the size and power of the utility Irish Water as much as a big engineering project. The opponents are for smaller projects which are more flexible (although groundwater abstraction needs to be carefully studied to ensure it is sustainable). Stopping leaks, efficiency, metering, water charges are all more sensible options than a "big water" plan. The environmental aspects of the Shannon abstraction appear significant [pdf]. On the whole, the big water scheme appears lazy and easy, and Irish Water should deliver Dublin's water needs through smaller, less intrusive mechanisms.

  1. Brazil (São Paulo vs. Rio de Janeiro )
  2. Water from a Federal basin that spreads throughout 3 States (RJ, SP and MG)
  3. State of São Paulo (mainly the city of São Paulo): experiencing its worst water shortage ever, São Paulo wants to connect two large reservoirs, in order to import water from the Paraíba do Sul basin (Rio de Janeiro´s main water source) to the Cantareira basin (São Paulo´s largest water source). State of Rio de Janeiro: also experiencing a severe drought, is very worried about its own situation and is trying to fight he project. Because the Paraíba do Sul is a federal basin that is born inside the State of São Paulo, it is going to be very hard for RJ to prevent the conclusion of project.
  4. OTOH I think RJ has a valid point, when its Governor says the usual solution for São Paulo´s water issues is simply to import more water from ever more distant basins. São Paulo should first focus on water losses (which are currently over 30%) and water recycling.


  1. WRT Nestle and BC, I have said that it's a good first step, but I don't worry about "taking too much" as the government (if it has any spine) can easily raise the extraction price and/or limit diversions.

  2. Bottled water in BC & Nestle

    Water should be considered as a shared and common resource. When developing pricing policies for bottled water from renewable sources in BC (mining non-renewable aquifers should not be permitted), conditions on license should be used more imaginatively. For example, a bottling water company could be required to donate a portion of their bottled water to regions within BC in need (e.g. small rural communities) as condition of their water license. This would provide tax incentives for the company, incentivize corporate good will, redistribute water to where it is needed, and reduce overhead of water supply in rural BC communities.

    Coupled with increasing the provincial water rent to cover currently unaccounted externalities including water monitoring costs, water sustainability planning costs, and water management costs - conditions on license are a set of tools available to the province that could be used to support and improve equitable access to water.


Spam will be deleted. Comments on older posts must be approved.
If you're having problems posting, email your comment to me