Undercurrents: beneath the obvious

April 13, 2007

Debate to heat up over North American water trade

From Canada’s National Post:

Canadian water is on the table at trilateral talks between politicians, businessmen and academics from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, …

A series of closed-door conferences for the North American Future 2025 Project will include the discussion of “water transfers” and diversions, according to the outline for the project, a trilateral effort to draft a “blueprint” on economic integration for the governments of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

The project was launched by the three governments in March 2006 to help guide the ongoing Security and Prosperity Partnership, a wide-ranging effort to further integrate the countries’ practices on everything from environmental rules to security protocols and border controls.

“It’s no secret that the U.S. is going to need water. … It’s no secret that Canada is going to have an overabundance of water. At the end of the day, there may have to be arrangements,” said Armand Peschard-Sverdrup, director of the project, which is spearheaded by the the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a powerful Washington think-tank, in partnership with the Conference Board of Canada and CIDE, a Mexican policy institute.

Pressure on Canada from the U.S. will be intense, according to the UN report, which warns drought may cut a key Texas aquifer that supplies water for two million people by 40%, and decimate the Ogallala aquifer, which underlies eight U.S. states.

Maude Barlow national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, which obtained the outline, said it “shows the American government and its think-tanks … see Canada’s water as a North American resource, not Canada’s.”

Key quotes from the outline (emphasis mine):

  • North America, and particularly the United States and Mexico, will experience water scarcity as a result of arid climates coupled with growing populations and increased water consumption.
  • Canada possesses about 20 percent of the earth’s fresh water. … Because water availability, quality, and allocation are likely to undergo profound changes between 2006 and 2025, policymakers will benefit from a more proactive approach to exploring different creative solutions beyond the current transboundary water management agreements that the United States has reached with both Mexico and Canada.
  • One such option could be regional agreements … on issues such as water consumption, water transfers, artificial diversions of fresh water, water conservation technologies for agricultural irrigation, and urban consumption.
  • The three nations will have to overcome the bureaucratic challenges posed by their different political systems and legal regimes, particularly if the overriding future goal of North America is to achieve joint optimum utilization of the available water

Read the outline here: North American Future 2025 Project (pdf)

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  1. This was interesting. I like the following quote in the pdf

    “Water control presents even greater challenges, because international water policy is primarily rooted in decentralized state laws in the United States and in provincial statutes in Canada. Consequently, the federal governments of these two countries have limited jurisdiction over water control issues.”

    This reminds me of a quote I read this week about Climate Change being global and Water is Local.

    Comment by Robert — April 14, 2007 @ 3:10 pm | Reply

  2. Thomas “Tip” O’Neill — a longtime Speaker of the House in the U.S. Congress — once declared, “All politics is local.”

    Comment by nemo — April 14, 2007 @ 7:05 pm | Reply

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