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Industry not paying fair share for water: report

The province is missing out revenue by charging large companies, including those in the natural gas industry, too little for the water they use.

That's according to a new report by the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

The report found that the province receives only $2.75 from the natural gas industry for approximately 2.5 million litres of water withdrawn from lakes, rivers and streams. The community of Dawson Creek in northern B.C. is charging companies $11,000 for the same volume of water, which is equivalent to the volume of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Natural gas is a booming industry in British Columbia and the process of extracting this gas, via hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking', requires massive volumes of water.

In a recent Tyee series on the industry, author Hayley Dunning reported that one natural gas well pad can use up to 100 million litres of water to complete its fracturing process -- the same amount as it takes to produce 70 cars. According to Dunning's research there are more than 10,000 such wells in British Columbia -- and the province supports the creation of more projects in this industry.

The POLIS and CCPA report also found that in some cases the province does not even require industries to meter their withdrawals from lakes, rivers and streams, adding to "a complete lack of regulation on sub-surface or groundwater withdrawals."

"Now more than ever, we need the province to commit to a Water Sustainability Act that embraces the need for transparent, across-the-board reporting of all water use," concluded the report's author Ben Parfitt.

Aurora Tejeida is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

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