Will the U.S. steal Canada’s water?

Geekquinox

Around the world, fresh water is increasingly being seen as a dwindling resource.

In California, an epic drought is threatening a huge portion of American agriculture. The need there is beyond critical.

Meanwhile, up here in Canada, a whopping 31 per cent of all the water on the continent is draining away into inaccessible places like Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean.

Oh, and we’re already sharing the vast waters of the Great Lakes with our increasingly thirsty neighbours to the south.

The more we have – and aren’t even using – the more and more they need.

“You just have to look at the history of Canada to figure out what’s inevitably going to happen,” warns Lloyd Alter, a blogger and editor at TreeHugger.com.

“At some point, I believe the Americans are either just going to take the water, or we’re all going to make some deal and sell it.”

Alter has just written a fine and comprehensive article on the past – and future – of Canada’s water supply. The stakes are high, he warned.

And the game may already be afoot.

“I don’t think the Americans have to invade. They just have to put a price on it that makes it too good a deal to miss,” Alter said in an interview with Yahoo Canada.

“Let’s look at our current prime minister, and the deals that have been made at great cost to our environment – and economy – over oil from the tar sands in Alberta. I suspect that if we can spoil such a huge amount of land for oil, giving up a little bit of water for a lot of money isn’t going to be so hard for them to do.”

Canada’s bountiful fresh water reserves are already being controversially tapped. The Nestle corporation currently pays very little for the right to bottle and export huge volumes of water.

“This really is opening, for the first time in many, many years, a very big can of worms,” Alter notes.

“I was really surprised to find that [federal NDP leader] Tom Mulcair, when he was environment minister in Quebec, actually thought this wasn’t such a bad idea. We ship electricity and we ship everything else. If we’ve got it and we can do it sustainably, since water is a renewable resource, why not? He has certainly backtracked, though.”

But Alter sees hope, and it’s coming from the American side. He cites a fresh renewal of manufacturing in the traditional Rust Belt region – the major U.S. cities lining the south shores of the largest fresh water depository on Earth, the Great Lakes.

“Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo are really coming back in a big way, because they are have water and clean electricity from Niagara Falls,” he said.

“The states of Michigan, Ohio and New York are going to be really reticent about killing the goose that is laying the current golden egg.”

Alter acknowledges the huge industrial water desalination plants being built in places like San Diego, California, but warns the cost is simply too high.

“They’re making it, but they’d rather buy it,” he warned.

I believe our water’s going south one way or another, and we’d just better figure out a way to deal with it, so that at least we get something for it.