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British Columbia's question: What to do about water?

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, December 23 2009

British Columbia's provincial government says that the Water Act-- written in 1909 to govern the authorities' administration of the province's aquifers, lakes, streams, and other fresh water sources -- is in need of a serious upgrade. The western Canadian province's population shifts and growing economy, compounded by the effects of climate change, are making the old legislation obsolete.

And so, British Columbia is attempting to create a public conversation around a "Living Water Smart" plan, aimed at channeling the needs and desires of the province's more than 4 million residents concerning what to do now with their shared water resources.

The public haggling over British Columbia's water use plan is an intriguing effort worth keeping an eye on (though, of course, it would take knowing more than, well, nothing, about B.C.'s internal politics to really get a handle on the genuine ambitions and potential of this effort). The recent record doesn't reflect too many successful attempts by governments anywhere, really, to formulate contentious, targeted public policy with a healthy dose of web-enabled public engagement. In the B.C. water case, the process will have to negotiate competing demands, from the needs of the enormous province's agricultural sector to the environmental rights of the its "First Nations." Perhaps figuring out how to best use a public commons is a natural fit for modern participatory politics and the new collaborative digital tools we now have in our toolboxes? We'll see.

British Columbia's project is just getting off the ground. First up, a blog. (Photo credit: bfraz)