Canada Dry…?

As recently reported by CBC, Canada’s stores of fresh water  – according to a recent internal federal govemnment study – are not as plentiful as once thought, and threaten to pinch the economy and could instigate water ‘showdowns’ between provinces, as well as between Canada and the USA.  As the article notes:

…’We can no longer take our extensive water supplies for granted.’— Environment Canada report…The report forecasts droughts in the Prairies and groundwater shortages in British Columbia and the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River basin.

Canada insists its water is not for sale. But a parched southern neighbour could ratchet up pressure to ship water south if its supply continues to dwindle.

There are already signs of water shortages in the Great Lakes. Lake Superior, the largest of the five, fell to its lowest level on record last September. Lakes Michigan and Huron were about 50 centimetres below their historical average levels last fall.

The report says a 0.08- to 1.18-metre drop in Great Lakes water levels costs the hydro-electric industry between $240 million and $350 million each year.

The report also warns of a “heightened risk” of showdowns between the provinces, and between Canada and the States, if the water supply dips too low.

As noted in a separate article, Canada’s demographics and hydrographics do not correspond:

About 80-85% of its population (c. 32M people) lives within about 100 miles (300 km) of its southern border with the USA.  Yet 60% of its fresh water drains to the north of this border region.

James Bay

Canada withdraws an average of 65 BCM (billion cubic meters; almost 53 MAF) of fresh water annually, about 13% of what the USA does.

Finally, all of this came out just prior to a Globe & Mail report that a Quebec think-tank with a blue-chip business board of directors was in favour of bulk water exports.  According to that report:

“Large-scale exports of fresh water would be a wealth-creating idea for Quebec and for Canada as a whole,” the Montreal Economic Institute said Wednesday. “It is urgent to look seriously at developing our blue gold.”

Indeed, Quebec could generate $65-billion a year in gross revenue if it were to export 10 per cent of the one trillion cubic metres of “renewable fresh water” available to it each year, according to an MEI research paper, which was prepared by Marcel Boyer, the organization’s chief economist and vice-president.

That’s based on a price equal to 65 cents a cubic metre that it currently costs to desalinate sea water, which, the paper said, will ultimately determine the commercial value of fresh water and profitability of the spending on infrastructure that would be required.

…Mr. Boyer also says in the research paper that Quebec alone holds 3 per cent of the world’s reserves of fresh water and uses just 0.5 per cent of its renewable reserves of the liquid a year, compared with 18.9 per cent for the United States.

…The wider issue of bulk water exports from Canada has cropped up regularly in the past 40 years, with a number of schemes proposed by various companies over the years. All have met with controversy and all have been shot down.

However, Liberal leader Stéphane Dion alleged a year ago – provoking denials from the federal government – that there have been secret talks between Ottawa and Washington about water sales to the United States, areas of which are growing increasingly parched….”

This entry was posted on Friday, August 29th, 2008 at 12:31 pm and is filed under Canada.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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