The Role of Property Rights in Protecting Water Quality (Revisited)

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A new book on water management features a chapter by Elizabeth Brubaker on the role of property rights in protecting water quality. L’eau entre réglementation et marché, published in France, looks at innovative approaches to managing water quantity and quality and explores market mechanisms that may be more effective and less costly than traditional regulations. Continue reading

Water Quality Trading in Ontario

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This paper, by Richard McNeil, explores Water Quality Trading (WQT) as a complement to the traditional regulatory approach to reducing water pollution. It examines the theory behind WQT, reviews common practices where trading has been introduced, and identifies principles for effective programs. It presents two Ontario case studies: the South Nation River watershed, where WQT has been a success, and the Lake Simcoe watershed, where WQT is currently being considered. Continue reading

Straight Flush

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"What farmers facing environmental restrictions have suspected about provincial urban sewages systems is true: they are massive environmental polluters of sewage and other compounds. Because it would cost so much to upgrade facilities in cities and towns, the situation often gets a blind eye."

It took just a few minutes. A manure irrigation gun, left unattended, pumping at full throttle. A faulty connection. Before anyone knew what had happened, several thousand litres of liquid hog manure were flowing down the slope towards the small trout creek.

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The water laws are not the problem

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To have the cleanest tap water possible, the Mike Harris government has announced stricter regulations governing the testing of the Ontario water supply. This despite the fact that the testing of the water supply was the only component of the Walkerton water system that functioned properly in one of the worst outbreaks of E. coli poisoning in Canadian history. Not only did the private lab detect the E. coli bacteria in the water sample, the lab also immediately notified the municipality.

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I’ll Drink the Privatized Water

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In the aftermath of the E. coli outbreak in Walkerton, Ontario, media outlets quickly moved from examining human error as the cause of the infection to pointing the finger at the government for deregulation, off-loading, and privatization. The Tuesday, May 30, 2000 edition of CBC Newsworld’s "Counterspin," was titled, "Don’t Drink the Privatized Water." That show was inspired by the Ontario opposition parties who denounced the privatization of Ontario’s water supply testing as a possible cause for the outbreak.

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Walkerton: Government’s three deadly mistakes

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Three fatal errors by Ontario’s government led to the Walkerton water tragedy that has left at least five dead and more than 1,000 infected over the past week. The government failed to prevent the pollution of the water supply. It failed to prevent the distribution of polluted water. And it failed to recognize that the private sector can handle municipal water supply more competently and safely than the public sector.

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Halifax’s political sewage problem

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Bill Maden figures he takes his dip in Halifax harbour at the only safe time of the year – the dead of winter. For a quarter-century, Mr. Maden, a personal investment advisor, has organized the Polar Bear Club’s New Year’s Day swim.

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Bring back our beaches

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The Beach: The History of Paradise on Earth. That’s the title of a new book that describes the western world’s love affair with beaches. For over a century, we have flocked to sandy shores to escape summer’s heat, to seek spiritual and artistic inspiration, and above all, to have fun. Sadly, many of our beaches are anything but paradises these days. Contaminated by human sewage, they have become sources of sickness rather than delight.

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What do you think of the state of Canada’s beaches?

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Public health authorities routinely close, or "post," beaches when high levels of bacteria contaminate bordering waters, scaring off would-be swimmers with signs typically reading: "Warning. Polluted waters. Swim at your own risk." During the summer of 1996, Toronto Public Health Services posted beaches on the city’s west side three quarters of the time. Some years the department has warned swimmers away for virtually the entire summer. Recent years have also seen closings elsewhere along the Great Lakes shoreline, from Thunder Bay to the St. Lawrence River. In the nation’s capital, The Ottawa Citizen has described BritanniaBeach on the Ottawa River as "a giant toilet that doesn’t always flush."

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How to save fish…and fishers

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The current debate over West Coast salmon, focusing on who should catch how many fish, has obscured another threat to salmon: habitat destruction. 

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Vandalism Masquerading as Progress: A History of Lake Ontario’s Fisheries

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Part One of this paper by Martin Nantel reviews the ecological transformation that occurred in Lake Ontario after 1750 and the factors – including overfishing, habitat destruction, and the introduction of exotic species – that contributed to it. Part Two examines the institutions – including the open access regime and “progressive” fisheries management – responsible for the transformation. The paper concludes by arguing for new, locally appropriate institutional arrangements that will set Lake Ontario and its fisheries on an ecologically, economically, and socially sustainable course. Continue reading

Governments Don’t Protect Environment

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When it comes to environmental protection, Canadians are like cocaine addicts: they have an insatiable craving for the very thing that made them sick in the first place. Or maybe I should say they’re like a mistreated puppy: they still love and trust the master who beat them, and they keep coming back for more.

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Troubled Waters: Municipal Wastewater Pollution on the Atlantic Coast

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This report, by Martin Nantel, examines the environmental and socioeconomic effects caused by the daily discharge of 1.1 million cubic metres of treated and untreated sewage in the waters of the Atlantic region. The report also addresses governments’ failure to enforce the legislation intended to regulate sewage treatment plants and proposes a solution to alleviate sewage pollution on the East Coast. Continue reading

The Role of Property Rights in Protecting Water Quality

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This paper, published in Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines, was prepared for Property Rights and Environment, an international conference organised by Centre d’Analyse Economique in June 1996. In it, Elizabeth Brubaker reviews the ways in which Canadians have used common-law property rights to protect water quality and chronicles governments’ tendencies to replace the common law with regulations that make it more difficult for individuals to protect waters.

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Municipal Wastewater Pollution in British Columbia

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This report by Martin Nantel examines the environmental damage caused by the discharge of treated and untreated sewage into B.C. waters, paying special attention to the threats posed to the Fraser River salmon. It also addresses governments’ failure to enforce the legislation intended to regulate sewage treatment plants and recommends a number of measures to alleviate sewage pollution in the province. Continue reading

Beyond Quotas: Private Property Solutions to Overfishing and Habitat Degradation

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Presentation to Managing a Wasting Resource: Would Quotas Solve the Problems Facing the West Coast Salmon Fishery?, a conference held in Vancouver, BC, in May 1996.

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NIMBY: Learning from the 13th century

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In an editorial in Hazardous Materials Management, Guy Crittenden writes that Property Rights in the Defence of Nature presents “a compelling argument in favour of property rights.”
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Eliminating sewage pollution; reforming fisheries; siting controversial facilities

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Quebec’s bureaucrats don’t appreciate our findings. They complain that our recent study of sewage pollution in Quebec makes them look like they’re incompetent, or not doing their jobs. And no wonder. The study, by Environment Probe researcher Martin Nantel, points out that although Quebec has made considerable progress since the 1970s (when wastewater treatment facilities served less than two per cent of the population), 376 municipalities, representing 1.5 million people, still flush their sewage directly into lakes and rivers. When we released the study early this year, media interest created great consternation in government ranks. The Environment Minister is now demanding explanations from senior bureaucrats, who berate our uncompromising positions.

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The Ecological Implications of Establishing Property Rights in Atlantic Fisheries

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A chapter from Taking Ownership: Property Rights and Fishery Management on the Atlantic Coast, a collection of essays edited by Brian Lee Crowley explaining the theory behind rights-based fishing and reviewing practical experience with tradeable quota systems and community ownership in various jurisdictions. In this chapter, Elizabeth Brubaker examines the ways in which property rights provide individual and community fisheries owners with both the legal tools to fight pollution and the economic incentives to reduce fishing pressures, implement conservation measures, and enhance stocks and their habitats.

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Sewage plants below standard, report says

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Almost half of Quebec’s sewage-treatment plants fail to meet govern­ment requirements – a sign that dras­tic action must be taken to prevent further degradation of lakes and rivers, a report by an environmental group concludes.

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