Vermont urged to think globally about water

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(Host) An international expert on water issues says Vermont should be prepared for new conflicts over groundwater resources.

Maude Barlow, a Canadian author and activist, says water supplies face increased pressure from development and commercial extraction.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Water doesn’t seem scarce in Vermont, especially this summer.

But author and environmentalist Maude Barlow, who lives in Ottawa, says water is still a precious resource, even in places where it seems inexhaustible.

(Barlow) “I know it’s kind of hard on certain rainy days and particularly in more water rich areas of the world like New England or where I live in Canada to even imagine that we could run out of water. But in fact the world is running out of fresh water.”

(Dillon) Barlow is co-author of Blue Gold, a book that documents the growing business of commercial water extraction and sale.

She’ll be in Vermont this week to give two talks on water issues. Her message is simple: water is scarce in a thirsty world, and it’s increasingly threatened by pollution, development and privatization.

This spring, Vermont lawmakers passed a bill that sets up an interim permit program for large-scale water extraction. The bill also calls for a study on whether ground water supplies should be considered a “public trust” that belongs to all citizens.

Dorset resident Joan Menson favors this approach to protecting the resource.

(Menson) “What we’re realizing is that all across New England, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, we’ve been blessed with good water resources, good tasting water and a good supply. But we haven’t had laws in place to make limits on what outside entities could extract.”

(Dillon) Menson is a member of Dorset Citizens for Responsible Growth. She says the town has seen a boom in new subdivisions yet town planners lack adequate information about groundwater supplies.

(Menson) “And they are concerned that their decisions in some cases are not as good as they should be because they do not have updated maps to show them the accurate area that must be protected.”

(Dillon) Maude Barlow says that on a global scale, groundwater is being used much faster that it’s being replenished.

(Barlow) “I would urge people in Vermont to think about being part of a kind of global water consciousness. We’re fighting for the right to water in parts of the world where people have nothing. One point three billion people in the world right now have no access to clean water.”

(Dillon) Barlow will speak Wednesday evening at the University of Vermont and she’ll talk on Thursday at Hildene in Manchester.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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