Canada warned against water exports

The Canadian government is being urged not to sell huge volumes of water to the parched USA as NGOs warn that, despite appearances to the contrary, the northern neighbour is not a 'great green sponge'.

The USA faces severe water shortages in three distinct regions – the South west, Midwest and South East.

Canada, on the other hand, has a water resource comparable to that of the USA but only 10% of the population.

According to Canadian environmental think tank the Polaris Institute, there are three obvious ways for the USA to tackle this problem if it fails to address the underlying causes of the shortages – population patterns and industrialisation concentrated in pockets of water-starved land.

The potential solutions are:

  • Ship water from Alaska in tankers or via pipeline – considered to risky or expensive

  • Increase extraction from Lake Michingan – the only Great Lake within the borders of the USA – but this is frowned upon by international agreements

  • Import water from Canada – an attractive option from an American perspective

    Canada is ranked as the third most water-wealthy country in the world, after Brazil and Russia, but according to Polaris, the raw statistics are misleading.

    While Canada does indeed have a lot of water at the moment, goes its argument, but most of it is in large lakes – which can effectively be seen as huge water batteries which, once drained, will not be readily renewed.

    “Although Canada may contain as much as 20% of the world’s lake water, this is not the same as renewable supplies of water,” said the institute’s Tony Clarke.

    “If water is continuously drained from a lake, it will eventually dry up. Lake water, in other words, is essentially non-renewable.”

    In terms of ‘renewable’ water resources from rain and snowfall, says Polaris Canada is less blessed and slips well down the global league table.

    Despite the obvious short term gains to be had by bulk export of water to the US, the country would be wise to conserve its water supplies for both pragmatic and ecolgocial reasons, claims Polaris

    Mr Clarke said: “In Canada, we have a social and ecological responsibility to be water guardians by defending and protecting the freshwater systems that lie north of the 49th parallel.”

    The institute’s report on the issue, Turning on Canada’s Tap can be downloaded from its website.

    Sam Bond

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