The Fraser Institute: Sustainable Water Exports Possible With Reformed Canadian Water Policies

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA–(Marketwire – June 16, 2010) – Canada should look closely at the benefits and opportunities presented by bulk water exports and move beyond the fear mongering and protectionism that has long tainted the issue, concludes a new report from the Fraser Institute, Canada’s leading public policy think-tank.

“Canada is blessed with abundant supplies of unspoiled surface water and groundwater, and bulk exports can be undertaken in an environmentally sustainable way,” said Diane Katz, Fraser Institute director of risk, environment, and energy policy and author of Making Waves: Examining the Case for Sustainable Water Exports from Canada.

According to the study, misconceptions about water supply and water quality have inhibited a fact-based consideration of the economic and public health benefits that could result from water export, not only for Canadians, but also for water-starved people around the world.

“Opponents argue that commoditization of water violates human rights. But if that’s the case, what possible justification can there be for keeping a portion of Canada’s surplus water from those in need?” Katz said.

Making Waves: Examining the Case for Sustainable Water Exports from Canada provides an overview of global water supplies and Canada’s hydrology, including current patterns of water use, as well as a review of the laws and regulations that govern the resource. Water diversions and transfers, both past and present, are summarized, as are the benefits of and challenges to water exports. The study concludes with recommendations for policy reforms.

Of particular importance is the study’s finding that the rates most Canadians currently pay for water fail to cover the actual costs of supplying the water, including the operation and maintenance of water lines and wastewater treatment.

“Canada has the third largest reserves of renewable fresh water, after Russia and Brazil. But artificially low residential and industrial water rates do not encourage conservation or the best use of this resource,” Katz said.

“International trade in bulk water would lead to responsible pricing, encouraging conservation and increasing the overall sustainability of Canada’s water supplies.”

The report also highlights the extensive inefficiencies of Canada’s water infrastructure, the majority of which is government owned and operated. For example, up to 30 per cent of total water entering supply lines is lost through leaks; in older systems, the loss can be up to 50 per cent.

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Download a copy of the report

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