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[OilyDuckFilter] Another flock of ducks in another Syncrude tailings pond.
October 26, 2010 12:00 PM   Subscribe

Previously on metafilter, a flock of ducks died in a Syncrude tailings pond in Northern Alberta. Last week Syncrude was fined 3 million dollars. Now, another flocks of ducks has landed in another Syncrude tailing pond. Meanwhile, the Council of Canadians is warning that Alberta may be on the road to privatising water rights, something that ducks have previously been using for free. [/tongue in cheek.]
posted by Stagger Lee (33 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
the Council of Canadians is warning that Alberta may be on the road to privatising water rights.

My impatience with the Council of Canadians aside, that sounds like the most drummed up of threats.

Warning that they may be heading down the road? I should go warn my wife that I may be headed down the road to becoming a zombie. Dunno for sure. Just maybe. Not that I might be a zombie, but that I might one day possibly perhaps become a zombie. Just so she can put a stop to it.
posted by dry white toast at 12:10 PM on October 26, 2010


what
posted by nevercalm at 12:10 PM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The privatizing of water rights is an odious development worldwide and should be fought with the might of a thousand exploding suns.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:13 PM on October 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Don't worry, it will be.
posted by swift at 12:22 PM on October 26, 2010



Warning that they may be heading down the road? I should go warn my wife that I may be headed down the road to becoming a zombie. Dunno for sure. Just maybe. Not that I might be a zombie, but that I might one day possibly perhaps become a zombie. Just so she can put a stop to it.


I won't bother to defend their specific claims, there are articles to do that already. But I will say that when dealing with legislation, the further they're allowed to develop the harder they are to kill. It really is the responsibility of organisations like the Council of Canadians to draw attention to potentially problematic legislation before it's matured, and I don't really think that your analogy holds.

It's hard to go back once the water rights are sold. As Australia is discovering, as the government attempts to buy back shares at enormous cost.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:24 PM on October 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


something that ducks have previously been using for free. [/tongue in cheek.]

I thought they were previously billed?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:25 PM on October 26, 2010 [19 favorites]


Ducks in tailing ponds are symbolic and politically useful. The real water-related disaster is that there's 840 billion litres of toxic tailings covering 170 square kilometers that no company has even started cleaning up. It's leaching into the groundwater, and the Athabasca river.

Canada has a long history of resource extraction companies getting paid, and getting out, leaving toxic waste behind for taxpayers to clean up. This looks to be no different.
posted by anthill at 12:25 PM on October 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


Don't worry, it will be.

God seems to have joined us. That is so cool.
posted by uraniumwilly at 12:34 PM on October 26, 2010


swift: "Don't worry, it will be."

Aw, come on... Why so optimistic?
posted by Rat Spatula at 12:42 PM on October 26, 2010


The privatizing of water rights is an odious development worldwide and should be fought with the might of a thousand exploding suns.

Do you have a better solution than a price system for incentivising water conservation in agriculture and industry?
posted by ripley_ at 12:51 PM on October 26, 2010


I think the word "privatizing" is key there, ripley.
posted by Shepherd at 12:53 PM on October 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


A pricing system to encourage conservation can be created without privatization.
posted by Shit Parade at 12:55 PM on October 26, 2010


A pricing system to encourage conservation can be created without privatization.

Count me down for preferring prices to be set by a market instead of the whim of voters and lobbyists.
posted by ripley_ at 1:19 PM on October 26, 2010


Yeah, well, count me down for preferring prices to be set by a torch-wielding mob of angry mothers.

See you on the other side.
posted by Rat Spatula at 1:24 PM on October 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Count me down for preferring prices to be set by a market instead of the whim of voters and lobbyists.

Seriously? You'd rather water -- water -- be governed exclusively by for-profit companies rather than an agency that, while flawed, exists to serve the public good?

"The whim of voters and lobbyists" is a goofy, shallow and Limbaughian way to denigrate a legislative process. A well-regulated water control system would be no more subject to "the whim" than a robust public health care system. Subject to positive and negative forces over time, but far, far better than an option controlled with the sole and isolated goal of generating maximum revenue for shareholders.

A privatized system would much more subject to whim than a public one; invulnerable to any attempt to reform or improve it, and dedicated entirely to chase maximum dollars rather than any sensible conservation or public heath agenda.

I can support privatization arguments up to a certain point, but "we should privatize water to protect it from voters!" is insane.
posted by Shepherd at 1:42 PM on October 26, 2010 [18 favorites]


Count me down for preferring prices to be set by a market instead of the whim of voters and lobbyists.

Because free markets are notoriously good at sustainable use of resources and damage mitigation after extraction thereof.
posted by eriko at 1:46 PM on October 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


Also, in the parallel universe you inhabit, who besides the market is hiring the lobbyists?
posted by Rat Spatula at 1:51 PM on October 26, 2010


It really is the responsibility of organisations like the Council of Canadians to draw attention to potentially problematic legislation before it's matured, and I don't really think that your analogy holds.

It's hard to go back once the water rights are sold. As Australia is discovering, as the government attempts to buy back shares at enormous cost.


My NAFTA-specialist friends will be able to comment more specifically on this, but I believe in our case, once we privatize water it may be impossible to go back.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:58 PM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


A little history on water privatization so far.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:10 PM on October 26, 2010


Eh, they don't seem to have much of a problem raising prices for water here, and our water system is publicly owned and run. A semi-privatized scheme might work out OK, but full on privitization seems like an invitation to disaster.
posted by wierdo at 2:14 PM on October 26, 2010


LOL @ the insinuation that the government can provide better water to more people than the private sector can. I really needed that laugh today, thank you. :)
posted by GrooveJedi at 2:43 PM on October 26, 2010


LOL @ the insinuation that the government can provide better water to more people than the private sector can. I really needed that laugh today, thank you. :)

Dude, really? We're not talking about the Somali government here - we're talking about real governments. Do you really think some for-profit company is going to give you better service than a government-run service? Do you really want to remove control over such a precious commodity and give it to industry? You understand everyone needs water, right? Don't you think Giant Water Monopoly Inc. would also understand that? Do you not think that the Water Company would do whatever it could to maximize profits? There are two ways to do this, and they both involve screwing you, the water consumer.

Seriously, there are people in the world that think water should be controlled by private interests? Good lord we are doomed.
posted by Mister_A at 3:07 PM on October 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


GOOGLE FIJI WATER

(Hey, while we're at it, let's privatize firefighting and policing too!)
posted by kmz at 3:22 PM on October 26, 2010


Privatizing water is too shortsighted. You know what we should privatize? People. That's right, lets sell all the humans to private enterprise to incentivize efficient resource use, and maximize profit opportunities. I'm sure Monsanto could do wonders in the genetic-modification sector to create added-value and leverage their core-competencies by developing more efficient and reliable workers.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 3:38 PM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Excellent! It's a win-win!
posted by Rat Spatula at 3:41 PM on October 26, 2010


Do ducks have cheeks?
You may have seen some cheeky ducks
posted by naight at 5:09 PM on October 26, 2010


See also the Berkeley Pit in Montana. Deadly to geese, but certain unique extremophiles like it just fine.
posted by smammy at 8:14 PM on October 26, 2010


LOL @ the insinuation that the government can provide better water air to more people than the private sector can. I really needed that laugh today, thank you. :)

Somehow that's no more absurd, yet totally absurd.
posted by mek at 8:16 PM on October 26, 2010


You can not effectively privatize something that the government can not allow to fail. It can not be done. If I somehow get control of your city water contract, I can screw around for five years, let the infrastructure rot, hire the bottom rung of employees, and skimp on regulations until things finally collapse. All I need is a couple of smart lawyers who can prove that I'm following the letter of the contract, if not the spirit.

And who has to bail me out? YOU. DO. You have to bail me out. You have to pay to fix my mess. You can't do without water. You have to bail me out, hand me more money so we can fix everything up, so I can get back to taking your money.

Anyone who thinks that handing a corporation exclusive rights to maintain what was formerly a government asset and thinks that there is somehow going to be "competition" (despite the presence of the word "exclusive" earlier in the sentence) has been hoodwinked, like someone who mistakenly bites a piece of wax fruit. Free enterprise never enters this equation - the monopoly just shifts hands.
posted by quillbreaker at 8:46 PM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Privatizing water rights is so mind boggingly stupid I can only hope it's a sign of the last extreme convulsions of a dying philosophy, a final "our idea will be shown to work if only we apply it to *everything*, you'll see!" move. Because the alternative is too horrid to contemplate.
posted by DreamerFi at 10:09 PM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would like the idea more if people referred to them as "water responsibilities."

People, corporations, governments, they all have a short trip to "I can do that, it's my right!" Responsibilities are not so easily shouldered.
posted by adipocere at 5:09 AM on October 27, 2010


This brings to mind the Berkeley Pit, which was the feature of a recent Radiolab segment. So basically, this flock of geese flies into the pit. They die. Then, yeast from their rectums colonizes the water in the pit and turns out to absorb 85-95% of the heavy metals from the water. Now I understand we're talking ducks here, but I have hopes that their rectal cultures might be just as innovative and daring as those of the snow geese; ready to use their unique biological pathways to turn even the most disgusting and polluted tailings into...something nice for the misses, or at least less poisonous, perhaps? Biology blows my mind, which is also a part of Biology, which is like WHOA! Dude.
posted by nTeleKy at 8:53 AM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Water privatization: NO. Just keep your dirty money away from our clean water. I live in Milwaukee [insert crypto jokes], and there has been discussion of leasing out the Water Works for 75-99 years. It is universally derided by all but the most delusional capitalists and politicians, and its sole benefit is easy money. You see, our current Water Works is not only fine, they are awesome. They test for more contaminants than the EPA requires. They started earlier than they needed to. They openly publish the results. They are one of the few Public Works operations that make money (through sales of the water), requiring no taxpayer funding. Which is why they are being targeted - other branches of the government want that money to go into the general public fund, instead of staying with the Water Works. I want good, clean water, delivered reliably; they are doing that. KPOW has been taking them on, and it's been tabled for now, but I do not want one of our greatest resources being managed for profit instead of for public benefit.

A little background: The Milwaukee Water Works provides clean drinking water to the city. They are publicly owned. The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District cleans the sewage (and makes Milorganite out of our solid wastes, amongst other things). They are publicly owned but privately operated, currently by Veolia under a 10-year contract, previously by United Water. They do occasionally dump some mixed sewage and rainwater into the lake, but way less than before (a couple times a year vs. 50 or so).
posted by nTeleKy at 9:56 AM on October 27, 2010


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