information on bulk water removals and water export
From the Green Lane
What does it mean?
Bulk water removal:
the removal and transfer of water out of its basin of
origin by man-made diversions (e.g., canals), tanker ships
or trucks, and pipelines. Such removals have the potential,
directly or cumulatively, to harm the health of a drainage
basin. Small-scale removal, such as bottled water, is
not considered bulk.
a land area draining into a common watercourse or waterbody.
Often called a catchment area, a drainage basin or a river
basin. Examples of major watersheds in Canada include
Atlantic (including the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River),
Hudson Bay, Pacific and Arctic. For example, the Great
Lakes Drainage Basin is not restricted to the lakes themselves,
but includes the many rivers and their tributaries that
ultimately flow into the lakes.
shared waters with the Canada-U.S. border running through
them. The principal boundary waters are the Great Lakes.
The Upper Saint John river in New Brunswick and Maine
is an example of a boundary river.
Canada's major watersheds
contain approximately 9 percent of the world's renewable
freshwater supply and 20 percent of the world's total
freshwater resources, including waters captured in glaciers
and the polar icecaps.
Water is the lifeblood of
the environment, essential to the survival of all living
things - plants , animals and humans . In conjunction
with other variables such as climate change, and industrial,
municipal and agricultural uses, bulk water removal projects
could have direct or cumulative effect on watersheds.
Impacts could include the inter-basin transfer of non-native
micro-organisms and exotic species, the alteration of
natural ecosystems and changes in water flows and levels,
and ground water tables.
The watershed is the fundamental
ecological unit in protecting and conserving water resources.
A watershed or drainage basin approach, is environmentally
sound and respects provincial and territorial authorities
in water management. Provinces, Territories and the federal
government are adopting a watershed approach as a key
principle in water policy and legislation. The watershed
approach recognizes the linkages of water systems and
the need to manage water within drainage basins rather
than on a river-by-river or lake-by-lake basis.
The preservation of watersheds
is important for the health and integrity of our ecosystems
and the communities that reside within them.
TO PROTECT CANADIAN WATER
The Government of Canada's
strategy to prohibit the bulk removal of water from major
Canadian water basins, including for the purpose of export,
is both environmentally sound and consistent with Canada's
international trade obligations. It builds on sound water
management principles and the need to protect the integrity
of Canada's watersheds.
Water is a shared responsibility
between the Federal, Provincial and Territorial governments,
and each have an important role to play in protecting
Canada's freshwater resources. The strategy recognizes
that Provinces have the primary responsibility for water
management and that the Government of Canada has certain
legislative authorities in the areas of navigation, fisheries,
federal land and shared water resources with the U.S.
Actions by territorial governments are also becoming increasingly
important as they assume greater responsibility over water
resource management. All governments have an important
role to play in achieving a permanent, Canada-wide solution
to the prohibition of bulk water removal, including removal
for export purposes.
The strategy respects Canada's
trade obligations because it focusses on water in its
natural state (e.g., in rivers or lakes). Water in its
natural state is not a good or product, and is therefore
not subject to international trade agreements. Nothing
in the North American Free Trade Agreement or in the World
Trade Organization agreements obliges Canada to exploit
its water for commercial use or to begin exporting water
in any form.
KEY ELEMENTS OF THE FEDERAL
Amendments to the International
Boundary Waters Treaty Act (IBWTA)
- The Boundary Waters Treaty
(1909) provides mechanisms to help prevent and resolve
disputes, primarily concerning water quantity and quality
along the Canada-U.S. boundary.
- The International Joint
Commission (IJC) was established under the Treaty. Parliament
passed the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act
(IBWTA) in 1911 to implement the Treaty.
- The federal government,
acting within its jurisdiction, is planning to introduce
amendments to the IBWTA in Parliament in the fall 1999
which will give the Minister of Foreign Affairs authority
over projects which have the potential of affecting
levels and flows of boundary waters (specifically the
- The amendments will include
a specific prohibition on bulk water removal from all
boundary waters, principally the Great Lakes.
- The amendments are being
developed in close consultation with the Provinces and
Territories. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International
Trade is leading these consultations.
Reference to the IJC
- A consistent Canada-U.S.
approach to the issue is an important element in protecting
our shared waters over the long term. In February Canada
and the United States agreed on a joint reference to
IJC; that would build on the IJC's 1985 study regarding
consumptive uses, diversions, and bulk removals, including
for export, from the Great Lakes.
- Work on the first phase
of this reference commenced on February 10th,
1999. Public hearings were held in 4 Canadian and 4
U.S. cities in spring of this year, where concerned
citizens from both sides of the border, as well as interested
organizations were engaged in the consultation process.
As part of its examination, the IJC also consulted with
interested provinces and territories in its work. On
August 18th, the IJC submitted its interim
report to the Canadian and U.S. governments. The key
recommendation called for an immediate moratorium on
bulk removal of water from the Great Lakes.
- The IJC plans to consult
broadly on the Interim Report over the next 6 months
and submit its final report to the US and Canadian governments
in February, 2000.
CANADA-WIDE ACCORD ON
BULK WATER REMOVALS
The long term security of
Canada's freshwater requires that all governments
implement legislation, regulations or policy to prohibit
bulk water removals, including bulk water removals for
the purpose of export. The Canada-wide Accord on prohibiting
Bulk Water removals will be the formal instrument for
aquiring this comittment all across Canada.
It is envisioned that Ministers
of the Environment and other Ministers with freshwater
responsibilites would sign the Accord and in keeping with
other federal-provincial territorial agreements already
in place, accountability for implemention would lie within
each individual jurisdiction. Federal, provincial and
territorial governments continue to work toward a common
approach with fall 1999 as a target.