World Water Day: Celebrating a public resource, now about those laws…

World Water Day: Celebrating a public resource, now about those laws…

World Water Day: Celebrating a public resource, now about those laws…


When my three year old and six month old see water they vibrate with excitement and want to jump right in. If they had their druthers they would stay in it until they were little prunes. They celebrate every time their toes are about to touch the water. Lucky for them they live in a country (and a region of the province) where water is relatively clean and relatively abundant, so they get many opportunities to celebrate. What they don’t understand yet is that our behaviours have direct impacts on the water resource and this has implications for others who may want to use the same resource.

When we treat water as a private resource, we disregard its fundamental nature and invariably impact others’ enjoyment and celebration. We might use it, pollute it and discard it, trusting that new high quality water is on its way down the stream. This in turn begs the question, how can we ensure we recognize water as a shared, common resource that benefits everyone? This is a timely question for those in government as they consult on various water issues around the province as part of their “water conversation.”

My message to government is that we need to treat water properly as a public resource and update our laws to reflect this. To this end, the ELC has produced a backgrounder on the topic of water as a public resource and this forms part of ELC recommendations to government around how water law and policy should evolve.

In brief, the ELC recommends amending the Water Act to ensure the public interest and environmental sustainability, as one pillar of the public interest, are fully embodied in our legislation. We can look to the common law as illustrative of how protection of water has traditionally been viewed as a public goal. Aspects of the Water Act advocate for shared responsibility over water resources, but in other areas the Act fails to adequately recognize the public nature of the resource.

We as individuals need to recognize our impacts on water, and we need to share and celebrate this vital resource. We also will need our governments to commit to recognizing water as a public resource. Our daughters and generations that follow should be able to enjoy their watery celebrations, but it takes more than conversations to make it so.

Be sure to participate in the government’s conversation.

The image from the Government of Alberta’s “Water Conversation” website. A very laudible sentiment but let’s make it a reality.




The Environmental Law Centre (ELC) has been seeking strong and effective environmental laws since it was founded in 1982. The ELC is dedicated to providing credible, comprehensive and objective legal information regarding natural resources, energy and environmental law, policy and regulation in Alberta. The ELC’s mission is to educate and champion for strong laws and rights so all Albertans can enjoy clean water, clean air and a healthy environment. Our vision is a society where laws secure an environment that sustains current and future generations.

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