Environmental groups say they are worried that Alberta may allow more of its dwindling fresh water supply to be sold for profit.

The groups, including the Sierra Club of Canada, were responding to recommendations in reports tabled this week by three government-appointed advisory committees.

One report recommends the government should allow corporations and individuals with water licences throughout the province to sell part of their water allocations to other users. Such for-profit transfers are now only allowed in parts of southern Alberta.

“This is Canada’s first water market, and we are moving down a potentially dangerous path of the deregulation of that market,” Lindsay Telfer, a Sierra Club spokeswoman, said yesterday.

“Decisions have come around to who can pay the most for water and not where we as a society need it or want it to go.”

There needs to be plenty of public debate before the province makes changes to its water-management policies, she added.

Telfer also questions whether most Albertans would favour a system where water would be allocated based on the thickness of someone’s wallet.

“Would a small farmer, for example, be competing to buy water over some large-scale industrial use?” she said.

Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner has said the province’s water policy needs to be overhauled and hopes the public will respond to the reports.

The government said “public engagement” on the policy is expected to begin next summer, but it is not clear if that will include public hearings or meetings.

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