Blog | July 11, 2013

80% of Albertans Unaware of Province’s Consultation on Water

EDMONTON—The Our Water is Not for Sale network of organizations released a poll today that shows the vast majority of Albertans are opposed to a number of key policy directions that the Alberta government is considering, now that they have concluded their “water conversations.”“While the government spent a million dollars to go to over 20 cities and towns and talked with only 1000 people, our poll shows that 80% of Albertans were not aware that the consultations even took place”, says Marle Roberts, President of CUPE Alberta. “We know that many industry groups and water experts participated in the process, but the government can’t go around saying they heard support for their water policy agenda when so few Albertans were not even aware this water consultation was happening.”“The fact that 83% of Albertans agree that ‘We need to have a water allocation system that prioritizes the health of rivers based on scientific requirements’ sends a clear message to the government that our first priority should be getting the science right on ecosystem health,” says Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “As population and economic growth increase demand for water and supply is reduced by climate change, we need far stricter regulations and scientific evidence to protect the health of our rivers.”The poll shows 74% of Albertans agree that “Municipalities should be given priority access to water for human needs, even if this means that some businesses like the energy industry cannot access all of the water they need in times of drought.”“This shows that Albertans fundamentally understand what’s at stake here,” says Ricardo Acuña, executive director of the Parkland Institute. “Nobody is saying that industry should not have access to water, but rather that provincial policy needs to ensure that water for human needs is guaranteed and prioritized at all times under all conditions.”The poll showed only 32% of Albertans agreed that “Water licenses for First Nations communities should be considered first in time, no matter when they received a water license from the government.”“While we are disappointed in Albertans’ responses to this survey question, we are not necessarily surprised,” said Joseph Jobin, Chief Operating Officer for Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta. “We believe this speaks more to the lack of consultation by the Alberta government on this particular issue and inadequate education that Albertans have on Treaty No. 8 and Treaty Rights in general.”The poll also clearly shows a majority of Albertans are opposed to water markets. 63% of Albertans polled disagree that “The government should stop issuing licenses and set up a system that lets the market decides who gets access to allocations of water.” Even stronger, 85% of Albertans polled disagree that “If a business, farmer or municipality is not using all of their water license they should be allowed to sell it to any other user for a profit, even if they got that license for free.”“The poll makes it clear that Albertans are overwhelmingly opposed to the idea of leaving critical decisions about who gets water up to a water market,” says Scott Harris, Prairies & NWT Organizer with the Council of Canadians. “And there is almost no support whatsoever in the province for allowing those with water licenses to make windfall profits off of their existing water licences. It should be abundantly clear to the provincial government that going further down the road to a water market is not what Albertans want.”The telephone survey of 831 adult Albertans was conducted by Environics Research Group from June 14 – 22, 2013. The poll is considered accurate plus or minus 3.4%, 19 times out of 20.To view the full detailed poll data files go to