NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Water Exports An Emotional Canadian Issue

June 3, 1999

Sensing a politically potent issue, Canadian officials are throwing up obstacles to exporting their water to the U.S. While Canada has 20 percent of the world's fresh water, the specter of diverting a small portion of that to fill swimming pools in Arizona angers some Canadians.

  • In 1998, Canada had 122,700 cubic yards of renewable fresh water per capita -- compared to 11,700 for Americans.
  • The Canadian government said in February it would encourage provinces and territories to ban the removal of bulk water from water basins -- a move that would prevent large-scale exports.
  • After British Columbia killed a deal several years ago to use tankers to transport bulk water to Santa Barbara, Calif., the U.S. promoters turned to Alaska and secured rights to harvest water from a lake near Sitka.
  • Ontario officials even canceled a permit last year it had given to a firm there to export water from Lake Superior to Asia -- even though the lake is also bordered by Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Some Canadian politicians predict that water will be the "hottest issue" facing the country within the next three years, since some Canadian voters view the U.S. as taking their country for granted.

Source: Roger Ricklefs and Julian Beltrame, "Canada, With Water to Spare, Is in No Mood to Share," Wall Street Journal, June 3, 1999.


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