Selling Canada’s Water

Before this class I didn’t understand the true extent of the water problems already prevalent in the world today. A United Nations study indicates that by the year 2025, two-thirds of countries will be “water-poor.” I find this mind blowing because this isn’t a problem we’ll be faced with down the road; this problem will be reality in our lifetime. The claim is that water will be the “oil of the 21st century” it’s also been described as “liquid gold” and could potentially cause wars between nations.
This article explores the possibility and implications of Canada selling its water as a commodity. At least one study says Canada has 20 percent of the world’s fresh water, which gives us the largest supply in the world. However, of this 20 percent only nine percent is ‘renewable” which needs to be kept in mind.
Politically and legally under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the selling of water falls into a grey area. There is the question of whether water is a “commodity” to be traded and sold or is it a “vital resource” like the air we breathe.
This article holds a pessimistic view on the affects of water exports and their ability to meet the economic and social needs of far away countries. The writer feels only the wealthy will be able to afford this water and allocative inefficiencies will broaden between the rich and poor. Secondly, if the rich are able to maintain a high quality source of water they will ignore the pollution of local waters because their needs are satisfied.
There is also the ecological and environmental aspect of this argument. Intra-generational equity needs to be considered. Canada has numerous lakes, great lakes and rivers. We need to ensure these are maintained for future generations to enjoy.
I don’t share this pessimistic view in regards to our ability to help and share our water with other countries when the time comes. I feel that Canada’s water will at some point be sold as a commodity. If Canada has excess water and other countries don’t have any, we need to help them. I am just pessimistic and concerned with the methods that will be used in pumping this water. I don’t think initially ecological budget constraints will be strictly followed. If this practice is to happen in the next decade or two, the research needs to start now as to how much water can be pumped per year without destroying or harming the delicate ecosystems of our lakes and rivers. Only 9 percent of our water is renewable!
What do you think? Is water a commodity to be traded and sold or is it something ‘that belongs to everyone and no one” like the air we breathe and shouldn’t be sold in mass quantities? Do you think countries purchasing this water will ensure it gets to everyone who needs it?
Source: Selling Canada’s Water, CBC News Online, August 24, 2004 http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/water/

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