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Great Lakes Article:

Water exports

Time for discussion

Windsor Star
08/14/2002

There certainly seems to be a fair amount of profit to be made in the sale of Canada's fresh water. Any potential profits from bulk water exports by the federal government could go a long way in cutting back personal and corporate income taxes and helping our public health care system. They could even be used to remove the dirty sediments still lurking in the lower Great Lakes.

Yet, our federal government has taken a decidedly protectionist stance against the proper marketing of bulk water exports. The Liberals have continually refused to allow water sales from international boundary waters. Our provincial governments, which have complete jurisdiction over fresh water sales from their own provincial sources, are also unable to export this natural resource.

But this is the wrong economic strategy. Rather than concerning ourselves with finding ways to protect our fresh water from international companies, the federal government should open up the market and allow private companies to get involved in bulk water exports.

From an economic standpoint, it makes sense to sell our renewable supply of fresh water for a profit. Canada currently sells large amounts of spring water, melted iceberg water and glacier water to foreign countries without any damage to the environment. Our water has also been used in alcoholic beverages such as beer and in various types of soft drinks.

By refusing to sell our fresh water, the federal government is wasting Canada's comparative advantage in this avenue.

For example, the Frontier Centre for Public Policy reported that an average annual rainfall of 33 feet in B.C.'s Link Lake would send enough water into the Pacific Ocean to meet all of California's water needs for the next 20 years. Imagine the profits that Canada could reap from bulk water exports in this lake and other lakes and rivers.

So, why not sell our fresh water?

By getting private companies involved in the process of selling our fresh water, new business opportunities and new jobs will be created in Canada.

And providing a proper financial environment for bulk water exports will increase the overall market value and profit margin of fresh water.

As well, it may be necessary for Canada to provide parts of the world with fresh water from an environmental standpoint.

The International Water Management Institute has reported that at the present pace of water usage, there could be a global water scarcity by 2025. Upali Amerasinghe, an IWMI scientist, has stated that "for the world to feed itself in 25 years, irrigated agriculture will require 17 per cent more water supply."

If available sources of fresh water are scarce in impoverished countries, there is a real threat that their crops will perish and food supplies will shrink.

The federal Liberals need to drastically change their policy on bulk water exports to foreign countries.

By treating fresh water like the rare and valuable commodity it is, we would make it impossible for governments, companies and individuals to continually waste and abuse this important natural resource in the future.

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