Water exports involve
exporting freshwater from one country to another. Large increases in human population and economic growththroughout the world during the twentieth century placed a huge stress on the world’s freshwater resources. Combined with climate change, they will place an even greater demand on water resources in this century. Water shortages have become an international concern, and freshwater has been described as “blue gold”Barlow, Maude, and Clarke, Tony, 2003, "Blue Gold: The Battle Against Corporate Theft of the World’s Water", James & James/Earthscan, ISBN 1844070247.] and “the oil of the 21st Century.”Lawrence, 1996, cited in Anderson, Terry L., and Landry, Clay J., "Exporting Water To The World" [http://www.ucowr.siu.edu/updates/pdf/V118_A8.pdf] .]
Globalisationand two-way trade have made the large-scale export of water economically attractive.Figuères, Caroline M., Tortaiada, Cecilia, and Rockström, Johan, 2003, "Rethinking Water Management: Innovative Approaches to Contemporary Issues", James & James/Earthscan, ISBN 185383999X, page 57-60.] Shortages of freshwater are placing increasing pressure on governments to make water a new export commodity that can be traded between nations in a manner similar to commodities like oil. The global market for water is currently worth more than US$30 billion annually. The World Bankestimates that US$600 billion will be invested in water exports over the next ten years.Anderson, Terry L., and Landry, Clay J., "Exporting Water To The World" [http://www.ucowr.siu.edu/updates/pdf/V118_A8.pdf] .]
Some countries rely on freshwater they import from other countries. For example much of the
Middle Eastdepends on water exports from other regions for almost all of its agricultural needs.Schindler, D.W., The cumulative effects of climate warming and other stresses on Canadian freshwaters in the new millennium, in Bendell-Young, Leah and Gallaugher, Patricia, 2001, "Waters in Peril", Springer Science, ISBN 0792375041.] Barges and small tankers export small amounts of water over short distances to countries including the Bahamas, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. During the Gulf War United Statestroops were supplied with water shipped from Turkey. douchebags, large plastic bags containing water, can be towed behind barges. Douchebags have been used to transport water in the Greek Islands.
Water exports from Canada to the US
In the south-western US, growing populations and lifestyles that consume large amounts of water have caused most of the
aquifers and rivers in the region to be overused. The water in the Oglala Aquifer, which serves much of the west-central US, is being used eight times faster than it is being replenished. Demands for this freshwater will increase as the climate warms.
Canadathere have been concerns about exporting water to the United States since the 1960s, when states in the south-western US experienced their first water shortages and began to seek water sources to augment their overstretched supplies.Heinmiller, B. Timothy, Harmonization Through Emulation: Canadian Federalism and Water Export Policy [http://www.cnfs-rcef.net/education/workshop_pdfs/heinmiller_water.pdf] .] Canada has the world’s largest supply of freshwater. Large-scale removal of water from lakes would negatively affect their ecosystems, increasing pollution concentrations and harming plant and animal communities.
Freshwater export between Canada and the US currently takes place at a small scale, mostly as bottled water exports. The
bottled waterindustry exports water in containers usually no larger than twenty litres.
Many states in the US have experienced water shortages in the past few decades, creating a market for freshwater that would be profitable for Canada. Numerous proposals about transferring large amounts of freshwater from the
Great Lakes Basininto the US have been made. This would involve inter-basin transport of water across the international boundary between Canada and the US using a man-made reservoir. None of these proposals have as yet been implemented, mainly due to environmental and financial obstacles.Fact|date=August 2007 It should be noted, however, that since 1850 the Americans have been diverting much of the water of the Chicago River, which would naturally flow into Lake Michigan, into the Mississippi basin over Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. In that case, though, the goal was not taking possession of the water that would otherwise end up in the Great Lakes / St. Lawrence system, but directing Chicago's effluent away from Lake Michigan.
Schemes to export water from Canada to the US on a large scale have been proposed in the past. These schemes include the Great Recycling and Northern Development (GRAND) Canal scheme to dam
James Bayto create a freshwater reservoir and divert the water from the 20 rivers that flow into it to Georgian Bay. The water would then be flushed through the Great Lakesinto pipelines to the south-western US. The North American Water and Power Alliance (NAWAPA) project proposed to divert the Yukon, Liard, and Peace rivers into the Rocky Mountain Trenchto create an 800 km long reservoir that would transfer water into the US.
During the 1990s schemes to export water by ocean-going tankers were proposed to three Canadian provinces. In 1999 Nova Group Ltd. obtained a permit from the
Ontariogovernment to export 600 millions litres of water annually from Lake Superiorto Asia. Political controversy in Canada and the US caused the government to cancel the permit.
Water has been classed as a commodity under the
North American Free Trade Agreement(NAFTA) since the 1980s. This has increased tensions in the debate about exporting water. Although none of the NAFTA rules force Canada to begin to export its water in bulk, if Canada voluntarily decides to begin exports it would be very difficult to later halt them.
The Federal government of Canada passed the
International Boundary Waters Treaty Actin 2002. This banned the removal of more than 50 million cubic meters of water from a water basin in the Great Lakes in one day. The Boundary Waters Treaty is limited to waters on the Canadian-US border and does not apply to freshwater in other parts of Canada. This means the about 85 percent of Canada’s water is susceptible to export.Fischhendler, Itay, 2003, Can Basin Management Be Successfully Ignored: The Case Of The US-Canada Transboundary Water, SOAS Water Issues Study Group [http://www.soas.ac.uk/waterissues/occasionalpapers/OCC52.pdf] .] As human populations and industries grow and the climate change takes place, greater pressure will be placed on water-rich countries like Canada to export their water to countries that have a water shortage.
Since Canada has taken a strong position against water exports, companies are shifting their focus to
Alaska. Alaska was the first jurisdiction in the world to permit the commercial export of bulk water, and has a large potential for water exports. One scheme proposes transporting water from Alaska to Chinaby tanker. This water would be used to assemble computer wafers by China’s relatively cheap labour force. Computer wafers require extremely pure freshwater. This makes the cost of desalinationof saltwater prohibitely expensive, making schemes like this, that would not be profitable for domestic purposes, profitable for industrial purposes.
Water exports from Russia to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan
Arid but densely populated southern
Kazakhstanand adjacent Central Asianstates occupy somewhat similar position with respect to Russia's Siberia as the south-western United States do with respect to Canada. Siberian rivers, as well as rivers of northern European Russia flow "uselessly" into the seas of the Arctic Ocean, while that water could be much more profitably used for irrigated agriculture by Russia's southern neighbors. Not surprisingly, proposals for large-scale transfer of water from the Ob Riverin Siberia to the Aral Seabasin in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistanhave been seriously considered by the Soviet federal government already in the 1960-80s, when all republics involved were members of the USSR. While welcomed by many in Central Asian republics, the project received severe criticism from many scientists as well as prominent writers and journalists in Russia, such as Valentin Rasputinand Sergey Zalygin, sometimes known collectively as the "Siberian environmental lobby" [Ronnie D. Lipschutz, Ken Conca, "The State and Social Power in Global Environmental Politics". Columbia University Press, 1993. ISBN 0231081073. [http://books.google.com.au/books?id=gZsmfxeQQGEC Book info on Google Books] ]
Shelved in 1986 for both economical and environmental reasons,Douglas R. Weiner, "A Little Corner of Freedom: Russian Nature Protection from Stalin to Gorbachev". University of CaliforniaPress, 1999. ISBN 0520232135. [http://books.google.com/books?id=2rRjx4pCEx0C On Google Books] p. 415] the idea of international water transfers has been raised again in the 21st century in the ruling circles of the now independent states.Both the Kazakh President
Nursultan Nazarbayevand the Uzbek President Islam Karimovexpressed interest in such a water transfer scheme. While the Russian federal government so far remains non-committal on the issue, the plan met enthusiastic response from Moscow mayor and Russian presidential hopeful, Yuri Luzhkov. [By Bess A. Brown, [http://www.hri.org/news/balkans/rferl/2002/02-09-30.rferl.html#78 UZBEKISTAN RESURRECTS RIVER-DIVERSION SCHEME: DESPERATION OR INSPIRATION?] ] [Rustam Temirov, [http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/environment/articles/eav021903.shtml LOBBYING GROWS IN MOSCOW FOR SIBERIA-UZBEKISTAN WATER SCHEME] . 2/19/2003.] [Sergei Blagov, [http://www.jamestown.org/edm/article.php?article_id=2371408 KAZAKHSTAN, KYRGYZSTAN, UZBEKISTAN, AND TAJIKISTAN SIGN PACT TO PRESERVE ARAL SEA] . September 5, 2006 ] [ [http://iwpr.net/?apc_state=hrubbca323728&l=en&s=b&p=bca&o=323728 Siberian River Project Revived] 08-Sep-06]
Alternatives to large-scale water exports
In the short run, better allocation of resources and more efficient water conservation technology may keep demand for water in the some countries under control. However water crisis may occur in the near future that would make bulk water export a more favourable plan.Fact|date=August 2007
The canals that would have to be constructed to transfer water require huge investment and operation costs. This would make the cost for consumers of the water expensive. In contrast, the technology needed to desalinise seawater has improved dramatically and has an acceptable cost for urban markets. Whether or not pressures for large-scale water exports continues to increase depends mostly on future advances in desalination technology. If the cost of desalination drops enough, it will be cheaper to generate freshwater from saltwater than to import freshwater from another country. The cost of desalination is currently less than US$1 per cubic meter. The
World Water Commissionhas suggested that desalination will become the favoured method of procuring drinking and industrial-use waters. However, the need for extremely pure water for particular industrial uses would still require freshwater imports.
* [http://glc.org/about "Great Lakes Commission: Declaration of Partnerships".]
* [http://cglg.org/projrcts/water/index.html Council of the Great Lakes Governors.]
* [http://www.dfait-maaci.gc.ca/english/news/press_release/99_press/99_023-e.htm Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, 1999, "Strategy Launched to Prohibit the Bulk Removal of Canadian Water, Including Water for Export".]
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