City, RDN urged to become ‘blue’

NANAIMO – The city and Regional District of Nanaimo have an opportunity to make a splash on water issues.

With the world making waves over a clean, healthy supply of water, the city and Regional District of Nanaimo have an opportunity to make a splash on the issues.

Delegates from the Mid-Island chapter of the Council of Canadians, Vancouver Island Water Watch, Island Glass Artisans and Canadian Union of public Employees, Local 402 urged city council and the RDN board last week to pass resolutions that would designate Nanaimo and surrounding towns as ‘blue communities’.

A ‘blue community’ recognizes water as a human right, promotes publicly owned and operated water and waste-water services, and bans the sale of bottled water in public facilities and at municipal events.

Burnaby, North Vancouver and Victoria are certified as ‘blue communities’, and Vancouver Island University banned the sale of bottled water on all its campuses.

Paul Manly, of the Council of Canadians, said it’s important to ensure future generations have access to clean, safe drinking water and the necessary infrastructure.

“Increasingly, there has been a push by provincial and federal governments for the privatization of municipal services, including water,” he said. “Water is something that is absolutely essential to life, yet the private sector has to make a profit for their shareholders. If it becomes driven by a profit motive, then it just creates serious havoc for people who don’t have the ability to pay.”

The city and RDN were receptive to the proposal, but each requested reports from respective staff on the banning of bottled water, said Manly.

The RDN’s community utilities department is working with recreation staff on a report for the RDN board. It is expected in the coming weeks.

“We are just about to put out a [request for proposal] for vending and pouring rights in our facilities,” said Tom Osborne, RDN general manager of recreation and parks. “It’s something the board needs to look at.”

The RDN’s Ravensong Aquatic Centre in Qualicum and Oceanside Place Arena in Parksville have water fountains for refilling water containers.

“The fountains have a counter that lets the public see how many water bottles are being refilled and kept from the landfill,” said Osborne.

Coun. Jim Kipp said Nanaimo supplies a standard of water out of its taps that is better than most of the world, but council still needs to take a closer look before enacting a ban in city facilities.

“I would be a fan of a bottled water ban, but there are some issues we need to address,” he said.

The city passed a resolution in 2006 promoting publicly owned services.

“Water should be a human right for everyone,” said Kipp. “I’m not fussy about major outside influences having control of Nanaimo’s water system.”

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