Proposing A Water Ethic: A Comparative Analysis of <em>Water for Life: Alberta's Strategy for Sustainability</em>
MetadataShow full item record
Because water is basic to life, an ethical dimension persists in every decision related to water. By explicitly revealing the ethical ideas underlying water-related decisions, human society's relationship with water, and with natural systems of which water is part, can be contested and shifted or be accepted with conscious intention. Water management over the last century has privileged immediate human needs over those of future generations, other living beings, and ecosystems. In recent decades, improved understanding of water's importance for ecosystem functioning and ecological services for human survival is moving us beyond this growth-driven, supply-focused management paradigm. Environmental ethics challenge this paradigm by extending the ethical sphere to the environment. This research in water ethics considers expanding the conception of whom or what is morally considerable in water policy and management. <br /><br /> First, the research proposes a water ethic to balance among intragenerational equity, intergenerational equity, and equity for the environment. Second, the proposed ethic acts as an assessment tool with which to analyse water policy. <em>Water for Life: Alberta's Strategy for Sustainability</em> is the focal policy document for this analysis. This document is an example of new Canadian policy; it represents the Government of Alberta's current and future approach to water issues; and it implicitly embodies the ethical ideas that guided the document's production. To assess Water for Life's success in achieving the principles of the proposed water ethic, this case study used discourse analysis, key informant interviews, and comparison to a progressive international policy document, <em>Securing Our Water Future Together</em>, the 2004 White Paper of Victoria, Australia. <br /><br /> Key conclusions show that <em>Water for Life</em> is progressive by embracing full public participation, a watershed approach, knowledge-generation initiatives, a new planning model, and water rights security. However, barriers exist that can disrupt the strategy's success, including the first-in-time first-in-right water allocation system, the strategy's lack of detail, inadequate protection of aquatic ecosystems, ambiguity of jurisdiction over water in First Nations communities, and under-developed connections between substantive issues. The thesis also outlines recommendations for Alberta and implications for other jurisdictions. Additionally this research offers guidelines and an assessment tool grounded in broad ethical concepts to water policy development; and it encourages making ethical ideas explicit in assessment and formation of equitable and sustainable water policy.