SONIA Furstenau, Leader of the BC Greens and MLA for Cowichan Valley, said in a statement on Wednesday in response to Working for Watersheds: Opportunities for Growth in BC’s Watershed Sector: “We are in a climate emergency that is only going to get worse.”
The report reveals that in 2019 the watershed sector supported over 45,000 jobs in British Columbia, contributed an estimated $5 billion to the province’s GDP, and advocates for ongoing government support for watershed resiliency through the Watershed Security Fund.
Furstenau said: “As British Columbians suffer from the impacts of wildfires, heat waves and droughts, communities will continue to see threats to water security. We cannot afford to wait and must protect water and watersheds in communities throughout B.C.
“This report emphasizes that watersheds not only play a critical role in environmental health, but in economic resiliency. Experts and scientists have been saying it for years: water is essential for the health and well-being of our communities.
“In addition to providing stable funding for the Watershed Security Fund, this government needs to move ahead with the licensing of water users under the Water Sustainability Act, and strengthen First Nation watershed co-governance models. These are essential steps for creating water security in this province.
“We have the advice from experts, what is needed now is the political will. In 2019 the BC government received a Strategic Climate Risk Assessment report that listed heat waves as ‘highly likely’ in the coming years. As we experienced two weeks ago, those heat waves are already here. Compounded with dramatically growing wildfires, water protection and conservation should be paramount.
“That same report listed water shortages as ‘highly likely,’ and that such water shortages will cost millions of dollars, cause morbidity and disease, and take months to recover from. With this in mind, it is unacceptable for the BC NDP government to continue subsidizing industrial and fossil fuel projects that directly impact watersheds, while failing to safeguard community water resources.”
Furstenau noted that on July 9, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development released a bulletin on widespread provincial water scarcity and drought conditions. Several regions are already experiencing Drought Level 4, where ‘adverse impacts on people or ecosystems are likely.’ All drought affected areas are being encouraged to conserve water.