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Freshwater is an integral component of human life; it is fundamental to all social, economic, ecological, and biological functions. However, resources are limited in quantity, quality, and unevenly distributed amongst nations, contributing to extreme water shortages. In Canada, the availability of freshwater resources seems to be the God-send. However, many controversies arise when water transfer methods are considered for implementation.

Over the decade, drought has marched across the globe—including the Southwest U.S. This looming water crisis is attributed to population growth, industrial development, and an increase in irrigated agriculture. It has put America in a state of desperation and left Canada anxious about fostering aid. Despite moral obligation, sharing freshwater with the U.S comes at the penalty of long-term environmental and socio-economic destruction and thus is not a recommended solution.


1)      Ultimately unsustainable

Firstly, Americans use twelve times more water (by gallon per person per day) than the minimum UN recommended consumption volume.  Since this is significantly more than Europeans, Canadians, and every other water-stressed country in the world, it is suggested that the U.S devise a plan to decrease their water usage rather than simply importing more water to sustain a dangerous habit.

As global leaders, Canada and the U.S should develop sustainable solutions that better the futures of generations to come. They should be focused on projecting and analyzing future trends regarding per-capita water demand, total population, incomes, and agricultural production. 

Thus, the U.S should focus on tactics to manage the gaps that are likely to arise between anticipated projections and actual projections. They should consider storage options and methods for reducing total usage rather than importing more water to sustain wasteful habits.

The decision to share Canadian freshwater with the U.S will only reduce the human value of water, turning it into something with finite worth, essentially depreciating the need to protect vital natural resources. It is also argued that freshwater is part of the Canadian identity, thus failing to protect it not only goes against Canada’s environmental roots, but also draws away from Canadian nationalism.       

Some argue that that there is an excess of Canadian freshwater, however, the result of anticipated climatic problems (less summer rainfall, more summer droughts, decreased Great Lake water levels) make it difficult to assume that Canada’s freshwater is a reliable source for centuries to come. 

Consequently, not only should the U.S implement tactics to reduce national water consumption, but Canada (also a large user of water) should apply ways to motivate individuals to decrease water usage through policies or human behavioural approaches. Perhaps if Canada can limit consumption, it will inspire other countries to follow in a similar guideline.              

2)      What about ecology?

Sharing water with the U.S can lead to extremely damaging ecological consequences for Canada.  In fact, Environment Canada argues that bulk water removal and diversion to the U.S can independently and cumulatively cause undesirable ecosystem damage. These impacts include thermal stratification, potential for earthquakes, increased GHG emissions, modified downstream temperatures, eutrophication, promotion of anoxic conditions, and increased erosion. In addition, subsea pipelines can alter coastal salinity and temperature, placing endangered salmon and marine mammals in critical danger.

3)      Prepare to pay!

Large-scale interbasin water transfers are extremely expensive. For example, economists argue that implementing the infrastructure for sharing water between countries can cost up to $400 billion U.S.  It is advised that this enormous economic investment be better used toward building a multi-faceted, sustainable solution. Currently, water development initiatives have relied heavily on governmental support; however, the monetary efforts of these agencies will eventually translate into increased prices of goods. Ultimately, it will be citizens who must cover the increased costs. This directly emphasizes the commodification of water, which can have catastrophic effects for Canadian socialistic polices.                     

4)      Social butterfly comes crashing

According to legislation, Canada has implemented a strategy to protect freshwater as an environmental issue rather than as a concern about trade.  Thus, it is a social and political obligation to care for scarce resources, not to lose control over them by allowing other nations to greedily take advantage.  Also through the development of water transfer systems, there is potential for devastating Canadian Native peoples’ cultures, which would be socially harmful to all parties involved.

If shared with the U.S, water will likely become a source of strategic rivalry. This is mainly because freshwater is highly scarce, will eventually be become a highly shared commodity, and the United States will not (without reluctance) seek out alternative fresh water sources. Collectively going against Canadian social and political values will not only negatively affect the Canadian image, but harmful repercussions will likely create tensions between Canada and the U.S. The association between neighbouring countries should remain civil to avoid serious drawbacks against other aspects of trade, aid, and support.   


It is important to consider that water crises cannot be mended in the short-term; it will require a concerted effort toward an effective resolution. It is a matter of setting realistic goals around the awareness of human needs and the care of the planet.   


AuthorSujane Kandasamy