Water Alarmism in Southern Alberta

Blog, Property Rights, Joseph Quesnel

Distortion about water markets continues to be spread in southern Alberta. For the second time in several months, environmentalists have been invited to speak at Lethbridge about our imminent “water crisis” and tell the public why a water market system will sell off all our scarce water resources to wealthy private interests.

Alberta is set to expand its water market system through the increased transfer of water licences.

Water resources are indeed scarce in southern Alberta’s South Saskatchewan River Basin, however most do not claim supply is at a crisis point.

Alberta operates along a first-come-first-served system.  The largest allocation goes to irrigation agriculture. The second highest goes to coal-fired power plants and the third highest goes to municipalities.

The problem is residents of southern Alberta do not have the whole story. They are not told how efficient water markets can meet all users needs.

Environmentalist organizations like the Sierra Club believe that “human use” is somehow different and distinct than business needs, forgetting that humans work in businesses and denying water for commercial operations will hurt human beings.

This is the second time the Sierra Club was invited by the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs (a who’s who of the political left in Lethbridge). An official from Environment Alberta called out the presenter for her numerous inaccuracies. With all due respect, why does the Sierra Club send political environmentalists to address these highly technical issues rather than actual water scientists?

This is funny given that a leading water expert is connected to the University of Lethbridge and has defended the use of water markets as a means to solve environmental and conservation goals.  Henning Bjornlund is Canada Research Chair in Water Policy and Management at the University of Lethbridge and wrote this excellent policy commentary on efficient water markets for southern Alberta.