The West Coast Environmental Law Association promotes the prevention of harm to the environment. We welcome the Government's recent initiative in respect of reform of the Water Act and have studied the paper on water pricing. The water pricing strategy requires amendments in order to ensure comprehensiveness.
It is essential that any water pricing strategy not be guided solely by market economy objectives, but by the broader principle of the promotion of prosperity. Market forces are incapable of placing appropriate weight on factors such as damage to the environment and fiduciary duties in respect of native land claims,and will therefore, undermine these important though non-economic considerations.
A water pricing strategy must also consider the disproportionate price power wielded by lobby groups and cooperatives. The nature of water -- a resource without substitutes, which cannot readily respond to price by repositioning itself to the physical place in which it is most valued -- must be taken into account. For these reasons, a pure market system is not viable as a responsible regulator of water prices.
Climate change as a result of the build-up of "greenhouse gases" is another factor which will effect both the demand and the supply of water, and therefore, its price. Also, the trend towards lowering of trade barriers will impact water prices by allowing for the exports of water, and for potential speculation triggered and scarcity-induced price fluctuations.
The process of managing this most essential of all resources must reflect its preciousness. The wisdom of treating water like any other commodity in a market economy is suspect. A more farsighted approach needs to be adopted, and an approach which promotes regional self-reliance -- living within ecological means -- is well worth considering.
We urge the government to consider the recommendations outlined in this submission, and to incorporate them into a final version of its water pricing strategy.