Arguments contre l'exportation de
Sans trop faire d'efforts, on pourrait tout simplement permettre que
des pressions extérieures transforment les eaux canadiennes en une autre
marchandise gouvernée par le marché, les accords sur le commerce et les
Nous pourrions aussi choisir de prendre une autre voie plus soucieuse
de s'adapter à une politique nationale de conservation; une politique qui
devrait inclure l'interdiction d'exporter de l'eau tout en nous permettant
d'offrir de l'assistance aux pays qui en ont désespérément besoin.
Les évidences s'accumulent pour démontrer qu'une politique de
conservation est l'unique choix rationnel. L'abondance apparente des eaux
douces canadiennes et la prétention qu'elles sont revouvelables sont en
grande partie des mythes.
Plutôt que d'exporter son eau, le Canada devrait saisir l'occasion
pour montrer l'exemple au monde en développant une politique de
conservation de l'eau.
The Case Against Water
Canadian Environmental Law Association
Published by CELA March 2000
is at an historic crossroads. With little effort we could simply allow
increasing pressures to transform Canadian freshwater into another
commodity governed by the marketplace, trade agreements and large
corporations. Or, we can take a different path that embraces conservation
as a national policy; a policy that would underscore a ban on water
exports as well as allowing us to provide assistance to countries in truly
(photo: Robert F. Beltran)
falls into Lake
Evidence mounts that a conservation policy is the only rational choice.
The apparent abundance of Canadian freshwater is largely a myth. In terms
of sheer volume, our water resources are staggeringly huge. Yet our
freshwater ecosystems have evolved and depend upon the quantities of water
in them. Within natural fluctuations, Canada's freshwater ecosystems
depend upon water levels remaining consistent.
Canadians embrace the myth that Canada's supplies of water are
boundless and consequently are the second most wasteful users of water in
the world. Yet, demand for water is increasing across the country. In
North America , the growth of municipalities is driving the thirst for
water. Ontario's landscape has fast become a battleground for developers
seeking perpetual supplies of water for exponential growth in the future.
Another part of this Canadian myth of abundance is the idea that water
is renewable. In the Great Lakes, for example, only one percent of the
water is renewable while the other 99 percent was stored here at the time
of the last glacier melt some 10,000 years ago. There is only so much
water to use before we start mining into its capital rather than living
off the interest, whether it is the Great Lakes or any other watershed.
Along with our wasteful practices, we are disturbingly ignorant in
understanding and predicting how these freshwater ecosystems work. As
noted by Dr. David Hansen, a water engineering professor at Dalhousie
University , the "on-going closure of most of Canada 's river
monitoring stations will certainly undermine the ability to make informed
decisions about the sustainability (or unsustainability) of such
The huge wild card in all of this is climate change. The science
indicates that the northern hemisphere will be more greatly affected by
climate change than elsewhere. While the precise role played by climate
change may be uncertain, Canada through the 1990s experienced a long list
of extreme events such as more floods, the ice storm or unusual drought
conditions. The unpredictability of climate change should instill a
precautionary approach on any decisions on any significant water removals.
Apart from climate change, another uncertainty strikes at the very root
of our control over our own resources. Under the trade regimes now in
place, once Canada starts large scale transfers of water, we will simply
lose control over it. The interplay of both the NAFTA and GATT (Canada is
a signatory to both) makes it difficult for Canada to ban water exports
outright. Moreover, Canada must treat NAFTA trading partners in the same
way Canadian nationals are treated, otherwise, foreign interests can bring
a suit alleging their "rights" were violated. There is already a
suit already against the federal government by Sun Belt, a California firm
claiming a contract to export B.C. water before that province placed a
moratorium on water exports. This claim is asking Canadian taxpayers for
billions for the firm's loss of profit potential.
But there is hope. Canada could rely on an exception in the trade
regime and ban water exports by basing its actions on well supported
evidence that such measures were needed to protect human and environmental
health and conserve the resource. A national conservation strategy would
not only serve the purpose of protecting our future water supply but
provide a foundation for Canada to assert its sovereignty over its own
resources and withstand any trade challenges which come our way.
The ability to control the destiny of one's water resources will be of
profound importance this century. Canada will be faced with vociferous
demands for water. The U.S. will continue to eye Canadian water while
carrying on inherently unsustainable water practices like farming in
deserts. Exporting water to satisfy the unquenchable thirst of the
Southwest, especially through some large scale diversion, serves to
encourage these unsustainable water uses.
The plea for conservation and against export, however, is not just
about looking after Canadian self interest. The world is becoming water
poor. As noted by the U.N. Environmental Program's Global Environment
Outlook 2000 report, the shortage of clean water is one of the most
pressing global problems. If Canada wants to do the right thing, it should
direct its thinking to helping out the world's truly water poor. Already
20% of the world's population lacks access to safe drinking water.
Canada could assist by exporting its knowledge and expertise on how to
use water within the boundaries drawn by nature. Where there truly is a
humanitarian crisis, the conservation approach in Canada would put the
nation in a much better position to respond. Exporting our knowledge on
water conservation will help far more people in need than shipping
expensive bottled water to be consumed by a privileged few.
Rather than exporting water, Canada should seize the opportunity to set
a global example by developing a sustainable water policy. A conservation
strategy will protect, rather than squander, our water resources. It would
be a true legacy for future generations and help the world to realize that
water is a finite and precious resource.