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The Business of Water: Privatizing An Essential Resource

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Efforts to Preserve Water as a Right

Organizations like the Council of Canadians, the Blue Planet Project (founded by Barlow), Food & Water Watch and others are fighting back to preserve water as a right, keep it out of corporate hands, and stop countries like Canada from agreeing to bulk exports to America when preserving enough for domestic needs is vital. Although Canada is water rich, it must conserve its surplus quantities, given its own growing needs. But plans are being made to divert them.

Selling Bulk Canadian Water to America

A January 2006 Canadian Press article, titled "Pressure to export water to US could grow" quoted former US ambassador to Canada, Paul Celluci, saying:

"Canada has probably one of the largest resources of fresh water in the world." Unmentioned was America's aim - control to privatize it, Celluci saying it's "odd (that) Canada is so willing to sell oil and natural gas and uranium and coal (but) talking about water is off the table, and water is renewable."

True enough when conserved and responsibly managed, but short of that, freshwater supplies are dwindling, and inequitable access for billions has created a global water crisis.

Celluci's comment was as close as "any high-profile American (had) come to (admitting) what many Canadians have long suspected - Washington wants our water."

In fact, Maclean's magazine ran a cover story arguing that Canada should sell it before America takes it. Responsible Canadians disagree, citing among other factors, the threat confronting western Canada. The most important Prairie rivers are fed by mountain glaciers, and they're melting at an alarming rate. The British science journal, Nature, noted that "The consequences of these hydrological changes for water availability....are likely to be severe."

Cities like Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatoon risk losing their rivers altogether or enough to cause serious harm. According to Andrew Weaver of the University of Victoria's School of Earth and Ocean Sciences:

"Its a huge problem. These glaciers are basically toast. They won't be around by the end of the century, or they'll be around in such insignificant amounts that it won't be a big source of water. You've got to start thinking about adaptation here."

Tim Barnett of La Jolla, CA's Scripps Institution called them "fossil water and when it's gone, it's gone. If you really are glacier-fed in a warming world, you're up the creek without a paddle, no pun intended."

Maude Barlow agrees calling a dwindling global water supply the new century's most threatening ecological, economic and political crisis, one not properly being addressed.

"There is no water (surplus) in the Great Lakes. The only place one could go (for what's needed) is up north and all those rivers are flowing north, so you'd have to be undertaking huge engineering projects to reverse the flow" (south). So this notion that we have lots of water sitting around is absolutely false."

Barlow and others worry whether Canada can ban bulk exports because WTO and NAFTA define water as a tradable good. NAFTA also calls it an investment, and a provision in the agreement requires "proportional sharing" of energy resources.

America considers water among them so could cite Canada for a violation if it won't sell. In addition, under NAFTA's Chapter 11, US corporations could sue for financial losses. In 2001, a California company sued the Canadian government for $10.5 billion because British Columbia banned commercial bulk water exports.

WTO provisions prohibit export controls for any "good" that by definition includes water. Imposing them could be challenged as a non-tariff barrier - even for sound environmental reasons and a resource as vital as water.

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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I live near the Toledo ,Ohio area and in the city ... by liberalsrock on Tuesday, Mar 9, 2010 at 6:07:29 PM
To gain a better understanding of the global impli... by Richmond Shreve on Tuesday, Mar 9, 2010 at 8:40:47 PM