Posted by: Vicki Burns | August 19, 2010

The Red River Basin Commission – Americans and Canadians Working Together to Protect Our Land and Water

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting with the staff at the Winnipeg office of the Red River Basin Commission( RRBC). Robin Gislason and Sara Perlmutter filled me in on the work being done across both sides of the border to promote watershed stewardship and management. This is no simple task given that there are 3 American states , South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota as well as the province of Manitoba in Canada who all share the Red River Basin.  

Here are some of the things they told me about the Red River and the work of the RRBC.  

image of map of all the rivers in the Red River Basin

Red River Basin map


“From its source at Lake Traverse in South Dakota, the mighty Red River flows north through North Dakota, Minnesota and Southern Manitoba to Lake Winnipeg, the 10th largest freshwater lake in the world. It meanders through the fertile, flat valley of the former glacial Lake Agassiz. The Basin’s unique topography contributes to the frequent flooding experienced by the communities in the Basin. Water quality and drought are also key concerns within the Basin.  

Land and water resources are crucial to the health of our economies, the resilience and prosperity of our communities, the health of our fish and wildlife, and the well being, health and enjoyment of everyone who lives, works and visits the Basin. The Red River Basin is a special place and keeping it that way requires that people share the responsibility for its future. The Red River Basin Commission (RRBC) has been bringing people together to move common Basin goals forward for over two decades.  

Current RRBC projects include a SharePoint site (an inventory of Basin water projects)  (under “RRBC Basin Inventory”) and a Success Story Blog which highlights particularly unique and successful water and land management projects in the Basin .”  

Sounds like there could be a productive link between community foundations in the Red River Basin and the sub-committees spread throughout the basin. We’re all working to ensure healthy communities and the Red River connects many of us.



  1. Looks like another link in a big puzzle. I couldnt get up any examples of projects happening but my computer is [playing up t the moment.

  2. Recently there were two news items in Alberta. Drumheller Alberta and Okotoks Alberta purchased water allotments. The first was from an unnamed party (insider) the other was from an Oil Company. The latter, cost Okotoks over a million dollars for rights to some 230,000 cubic meters of water annually.

    On “Free Water” Dasani Water Company (Coca Cola) in Calgary and the Calgary Malting Company, own more water in our drinking aquifer than dose the City of Calgary own in Surface water rights. Their surface water is glacier fed and dwindling expected to last another 10 years or so. Thanks Ralph Klein!

    Water allotments have never been sold in the past. The oil companies, Calgary Malting and Dasani, towns and cities received them free of charge as did the unnamed insider. Why then the sale?

    Bolstered by the Alberta Government’s promise of untold riches the towns chose to pay up.

    This forces the price of water utilities up. Never shy about charging, Edmonton now has the highest water prices in the world (National Geographic April 2010).

    Following the long standing Conservative dream of including water into NAFTA and changing bulk water to a commodity is fore front in their plans. To the Conservative Governments across the map it seems like a good time to go for the gold!

    If we export water under NAFTA rules (which are inherently unfair and biased towards the US), we must give the Americans first chance at the water and we cannot charge the Americans more money than we are now paying.

    The higher they push the prices on Canadian water to Canadians, the higher the exporters can charge for the water going to the US. This is price fixing on a grand scale!

    This means that Alberta’s drinking aquifer is at risk. Neither Dasani or Calgary Malting are compelled to sell the water to Calgary or Alberta for that matter. They can sell directly to the US market regardless of how dry Alberans get. Water goes to the highest bidder!

    Under the new scheme, when it comes time to export, people in Alberta will be paying more money than those people in California who are the targeted export market.

    Harper is on side. The Canada Environment are running TV is carrying subtle advertisements in fill in spots saying “our water is our finest resource and it must be shared.” The Conservative Association of Canada went before the Liberal Privy council to debate if bulk water export was a part of NAFTA or not and they were told it was not! They said they would wait for a better time.

    This is a north American movement which has been kept away from the eyes of the public.

    On the east coast quote:
    “Fortunately, there is some hope that the wisdom of water sales may eventually triumph over emotionalism. Last spring the McCurdy Group, a Newfoundland company looking for permission to tanker 13 billion gallons a year from pristine Gisbourne Lake, received an unexpected endorsement from Newfoundland’s Liberal Premier Roger Grimes. Mr. Grimes has promised to use the money the government gets from the deal to underwrite university tuition in Canada’s poorest province. A better plan would be to auction the rights and use the proceeds for much-needed tax cuts. (A striking difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals)

    The McCurdy Group is still waiting for an official go-ahead but thanks to Canadian law, the federal government can’t stop the province from granting the permit. “We don’t want to sell water in bulk,” says Mr. Chretien, “But at the same time, we have to realize that we don’t have absolute control of the water. We have control of navigable waters, but we don’t have control of other types of water that are under the provincial jurisdiction.” Ontario and British Columbia have already said “no” to companies that want to sell water by tanker but if Newfoundland has success in water marketing that might change.”

    And in Calgary a quote from the Green Party (Still another Fuzzy named right wing party; this one still trying to find an agenda.

    * The case for selling Canadian water is being presented more forcefully in the media by SPP proponents, journalists, business strategists and investors seeking profits in this potentially lucrative market.

    * Massive NAFTA Super-Corridors, complete with plans for water pipelines, are in the works.

    * Bulk water exports were the focus of meetings of the North American Future 2025 Project. According to documents leaked by a Washington-based think tank, SPP meetings in Calgary on April 28, 2007 were to discuss “water consumption, water transfers and artificial diversions of bulk water” with the aim of “maximizing the policy impact.”

    And the nail in the coffin from Alberta:

    First, consider the Peace River is a navigable water with the second highest flow in North America! Legislation changes would have to take place; that is Harper’s job.

    In the ‘80s the Alberta Government commissioned a fully engineered muli-tier pipeline by Weatherford on moving water from the Peace River into Southern Alberta, using it to irrigate the pipeline corridor and export huge amounts into the American northern states.

    This plan calls for an immense pipe line capable of moving two-thirds of the Peace River Flow through the pipe along with the assurances it will not harm the wild life. This same plan calls for 8 lift stations to move the water; each of them using the electrical power of a small city.
    Further, this project was approved, only shelved, until the weather gets dry enough and the public can see the light or, the political opportunity, such as now arrives.

    All this ties in with the new dam being proposed on the Peace announced by BC’s Gordon Campbell who at every opportunity is telling the world he is going to usher in a new way of looking after our water resource.

    Between the existing dam on the Peace River and the proposed New Dam on the Peace River there will be created a large lake, sufficient to act as a sump to draw down the amount of water this pipeline is capable of, all year around regardless of the water levels in the river.

    If there is a shift away from the Conservatives or it comes to Canadian’s attention they are charged exploitative charges on their water service the whole scenario can change.

    On the other side anything is possible if water can be exported outside of the NAFTA agreement and Canadians will not have to bear the brunt of the higher exploitative pricing.

    There is only one fix for this! Break up the Conservative club as in get rid of them

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