Posted by: Vicki Burns | August 25, 2010

Lake Winnipeg, the Ottawa River and B.C. Forest Fires – How Are They Connected?

Here is a terrific article by Tom Axworthy, the CEO of the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation, that appeared in Regina’s Leader Post today. The answer to the riddle I presented in the title, is in this article and it is Water or lack of it that is the common theme.

Tom’s recent experience on Lake Winnipeg was marred by the presence of a large blue-green algae bloom at Victoria Beach. This is a visible symptom of the deteriorating water quality in this and many other lakes in our great country. The common thread here is too much phosphorus and nitrogen getting into our waterways from our human and animal waste. The only good news is that we can change that but it will take some effort from all of us.

image of woman walking with 2 dogs on leashes along the beach at sunset

Beach at sunset -photo credit John Gosselin

The Ottawa River and the B.C. forest fires are both suffering from too little water so getting everyone to stop wasting water is of prime importance in those areas.

The main message I took from Tom’s article is that we need significant action across the country on both water quality and water quantity issues and our senior governments should be making this a real priority. We all need to work to ensure we have safe, clean water now and for future generations.



  1. 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.

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

    Bolstered by the Alberta Government the towns had to pay up. This adds many dollars to the resource and forces the price of water utilities way up. When it comes time to export, they will tell Albertans the cost is the same. 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. With Conservative Governments in 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 simply price fixing on a grand scale!

    Under the new scheme, when it comes time to export, people in Alberta will be paying 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.”

    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 tuitions 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 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 legislation changes would have to take place; that is Harper’s job.

    In the ‘80s the Alberta Government commissioned a fully engineered 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.

    If there is a shift away from the Conservatives or it comes to Canadian’s attention they are charged exploitive 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 exploitive pricing.

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