Water Transfers Require Due Process
Edmonton, AB, 21 April 2010 – Last month a public notice appeared on the Alberta Environment website that indicated that the Eastern Irrigation District (EID) had proposed changes to the purpose of its water license from irrigation only to a variety of purposes including “municipal, agriculture, commercial, industrial, habitat enhancement and recreation.”
The Environmental Law Centre (ELC), upon considering the application and relevant legislation, found several issues that need attention and – for the first time in over 25 years of operation – issued a Statement of Concern to Alberta Environment.
“Any decision to approve this application would be unreasonable,” said Laura Bowman, Staff Counsel at the ELC. Unreasonable how?
According to Bowman, the EID has been providing water to other users for non-irrigation purposes without valid authorization under the Water Act for some time. This, she says, is contrary to policies contained in the Water Act and Irrigation Districts Act designed to protect irrigators, other water users and the environment.
Further, Bowman said that if approved this application:
- Would circumvent Irrigation Districts Act transfer provisions – meaning it would not require a plebiscite by irrigators. The people who currently use the license for irrigation would not have the opportunity to have their say on proposed changes; and
- Would circumvent Water Act transfer provisions – meaning that the power to withhold up to 10% of the allocation for conservation would no longer apply.
For these reasons, said Bowman, “the application for a change of purpose should be denied.” Instead, water use by parties other than the irrigation district should be considered a “transfer” and trigger the processes and protections of applicable legislation.
The complete Statement of Concern can be found on the Environmental Law Centre’s website at http://www.elc.ab.ca/Content_Files/Files/BriefsAndSubmissions/SOCEIDreallocation2010.pdf.
About the ELC: The ELC’s vision is a clean, healthy and diverse environment protected through informed citizen participation and sound law and policy, effectively applied. Its mission is to ensure that laws, policies and legal processes protect the environment.