Allowing private companies the right to sell off water from Alberta’s lakes and streams could force towns and cities like Edmonton to spend millions just to provide enough water to its own residents, says a group behind a new campaign.

Shelia Muxlow, a director with the Sierra Club, is among those heading up the “Our Water is Not For Sale” campaign and she says the proposed plan by the Stelmach government could have a huge impact on Alberta’s rivers, lakes and streams.

“If water markets go forward as proposed, nature will be forced to act as one more player in the market competing with other water users,” said Muxlow.

“We all need water to survive and it should not be allocated based on who has the biggest bank account.”

Cara Tobin, a spokeswoman with the province’s Environment Ministry, says each company looking to sell water will go through a rigorous application process and it won’t be allowed to ship water outside of Alberta if the plan is approved.

There are also plans to set aside a certain amount of water to protect the environment, says Tobin.

But Edmonton Coun. Linda Sloan says city taxpayers could be on the hook for millions if the plan is approved. “This places municipalities and citizens in a vulnerable position,” she said.