Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Great Lakes Water Canada Has Valid Concerns about Growing U.S. Demand

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Great Lakes Water Canada Has Valid Concerns about Growing U.S. Demand

Article excerpt

Canada's long-standing fear of getting sucked into a diplomatic water war with the United States is back on.

Gary Doer, Canada's ambassador to the United States, predicted in a recent interview in Postmedia News that U.S. demands for water five years from now will be so great they will make the controversy over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline "look silly." He urged Canadians to start doing a better job of protecting their water resources.

Then came a fine commentary in The Globe and Mail, Canada's largest-circulation national newspaper, by its national affairs columnist, Gary Mason, which captured the essence of why Canadians are justified in fearing America's growing demand for water.

Mr. Mason cited parts of California experiencing "their worst drought in modern history" to the rapid depletion of the world's largest-known freshwater aquifer, the Ogallala Aquifer, which serves several Midwestern prairie and Southwestern states, some of them major grain producers. His column came complete with the catchy headline "In a water war, Canada could get hosed."

It would be fun to write off these articles as Canadian paranoia, except they make some valid points. The United States is indeed on a collision course over water, and it has been for years.

America's growing water stress was a driving force behind the eight-state Great Lakes water-management compact that has been endorsed, in principle, by Canada's two affected provinces, Ontario and Quebec. The Great Lakes compact seeks to keep water in the Great Lakes region.

A nonbinding agreement in principle - i.e., a public acknowledgment - is the best that can be done in that regard because states cannot enter into legally binding contracts with provinces or other foreign entities.

The heavy negotiations that went into that compact led to some eye-opening revelations, not the least of which was how Americans don't quite appreciate or understand the Canadian perspective when it comes to something as simple as protecting the Great Lakes.

Put yourself in Canada's shoes - or winter boots, for that matter. The USA, to many Canadians, is a big resource-sucking machine. We covet Canada's water, natural gas and timber. We sometimes think of the Great Lakes as our own, when in fact they are a shared resource.

Of the 40 million people who live in the Great Lakes basin, 30 million are in the United States and 10 million are in Canada. In other words, one of every four Great Lakes residents are Canadians, plus there are rights to the water claimed by tribes and First Nations.

One of the biggest examples of America's oversight was a 1985 agreement among Great Lakes governors that served as a forerunner to the compact, asserting that Great Lakes water needs to stay in the basin. …

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