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Should Canada Allow Bulk Water Exports?

Canada, which represents less than 0.5% of the world’s population, is in possession of 20% of all of the world’s freshwater. It would seem, on the surface, that this surplus offers an easy answer to the global water crises by having Canada provide water to all those who need it. What is not taken into consideration by so many is how climate change will also affect the area and its own residents in the long run. There are already signs of a shift in places like Ottawa where drought has affected many of its crops and in Calgary and Toronto where there have been billions of dollars in damages from flooding. It’s possible that tapping into that surplus for the world will cause more issues for everyone in the long run. So should Canada share their water with the rest of the world? Here are 3 significant pros and cons to doing so:

Pro—Offer it now to maintain control

Some feel it’s best to set up a system by which Canada offers their water so they can be in control of how it is exported before other countries demand it be shared or sold. There’s been a lot of media attention highlighting the country’s concern about losing control of its water. For example, Peter Lougheed predicted in the Globe and Mail that the U.S. would demand access to Canada’s water within a decade, and in an editorial written for Maclean’s proclaimed it would be best to, “…sell them our water before they take it.”

Con—Cost prohibitive to move the water

In order to export the water, pipelines would need to be built, shipping set up and a variety of trade agreements reworked to even allow the entire venture. All of this may prove cost prohibitive and a laborious business model that may be untenable.

Pro—Contributing to the salvation of the global water issue

The thought that Canada can be instrumental in assisting other countries has been top of mind for some time. Their ability to be of significant assistance to those countries, most specifically their closest neighbour in the U.S., with their water has created a great deal of discussion within local communities, governments in various provinces and newspaper editorials.

Con—Vociferous public opposition

Every time the issue of sharing water with the rest of the world is broached, Canadians have been adamantly against it. While they may not fully embrace how finite water may be, they inherently feel the impact that may occur should their country begin giving away water to others.

Pro—Share conservation tips and technology with U.S.

While this is not a sharing of actual water, it is something that can help alleviate any issues regarding trade agreements, misconceptions of surplus water, and concerns about the U.S. seeking more active access to Canada’s water. This can also be seen as a strengthening of the Canada/U.S. relationship and a long-term help for present and future water difficulties.

Con—Concerns about too little, too late

Sharing knowledge on conservation and the like with the U.S. may come too late for them to implement it in a significant way.


The newest NAFTA agreement with America does not exclude water although the original draft did. Should the U.S. decide water is a tradable good, they can try and force Canada to share it with them through legal channels. Export critics fear that if Canada proclaims their water isn’t to be traded it is a way of acknowledging that it actually is a tradable commodity and, therefore, should be put on the table for discussion. For now, it’s a waiting game to see just what the rest of the world needs and what, if anything, Canada can and is willing to do to support that.