[Date Prev][Date Next][Date Index]

GLIN==> Canada and New York must stop water export proposals


Contact: Margaret Wooster, (716) 886-0142

Canada and New York must act to prevent water export proposals

Buffalo, New York, March 29 -- Great Lakes United urges the federal government of Canada and the government of New York State to quickly quash new proposals to export water from the region.

The province of Newfoundland and the city of Webster near Rochester, New York, have announced plans to export water, re-igniting the threat of precedent-setting actions that could ultimately lead to the creation of a water export industry that could seriously harm the Great Lakes.

Great Lakes United applauds the statements of federal Environment Minister David Anderson made yesterday warning Newfoundland of the consequences of its actions for Canada. Great Lakes United urges the federal government of Canada to continue to exercise its powers to prevent Newfoundland from selling the water of Lake Gisborne to a private operator planning to export the water abroad.

The state of New York should immediately announce that it will not submit any request to the other Great Lakes states for exporting groundwater from Webster. Submission of the request and its approval by all eight Great Lakes governors is required by the U.S. Water Resources Development Act of 1986.

As recommended by the U.S.-Canada International Joint Commision last year, the federal, provincial, and state governments of the region should impose a blanket moratorium on all bulk water removal proposals until a new system for protecting the Great Lakes ecosystem from the consequences of water use has been put in place.

If allowed to take place, the export proposals could set up a national precedent in Canada and a regional precedent in the United States that could open up the possibility of international trade rules forcing the region to allow bulk export of water from the Great Lakes.

The eight Great Lakes states and the two Great Lakes provinces are currently engaged in a long-term process of negotiating new rules for Great Lakes basin water use to prevent export and diversion proposals in the long term.

This year Great Lakes released Water Use and Ecosystem Restoration  An Agenda for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin, a suggested blueprint for the governors and premiers to follow in their protection effort. For more information on the bulk water export and diversion threat, find the Agenda, fact sheets and reports at www.glu.org .

Great Lakes United is a coalition of 170 organizations from the United States, Canada, and the region’s First Nations and tribes, working to protect and restore the Great Lakes  St. Lawrence River ecosystem.

The Globe and Mail
Thursday, March 29
Nfld. water sale might open floodgates, Anderson fears
Ottawa — Environment Minister David Anderson said Wednesday that if one
province allows bulk exports of water, it will be difficult for the federal
government to prevent foreign companies from gaining access to the rest of
the country's lakes.
One day after Newfoundland Premier Roger Grimes announced his intention to
allow the export of billions of gallons of water from Gisborne Lake, Mr.
Anderson said such a move would make water a "good" — tradeable under the
North American free-trade agreement.
Under NAFTA, Canada would then be forced to grant companies from the United
States and Mexico access to lakes across the country.
"We believe it's very important to protect water at the source, not at the
border," Mr. Anderson said. "If Canada starts treating water as a commodity,
or an item of trade, it will ultimately be treated as an item of trade under
Mr. Anderson said he is also concerned that moving bulk water from one
ecosystem to another could have unpredictable side effects.
Fresh water has been dubbed by some the "oil of the 21st century" because of
the increasing demand for it in arid parts of the world. For instance, China
alone has about 80 million hectares of farmland considered too dry for use.
Mr. Grimes revived a dormant debate in his province by suggesting that the
royalties the province would receive could eliminate tuition fees for the
province's university students.
"If it means being offside with the government of Canada, then so be it," he
told the provincial legislature as his Liberal colleagues pounded their
desks in approval. "If it means being offside with other provinces because
they have concerns...then so be it."
Bulk water exports "probably have the greatest single potential to generate
revenue, year in and year out," Mr. Grimes told reporters later.
The scheme — advanced by businessman Gerry White — was rejected in 1999 by
then premier Brian Tobin. Now the federal Industry Minister, Mr. Tobin
seemed caught off-guard by the move yesterday.
"I think you know my position. It was very well articulated when I was
there," he said outside the House of Commons. He said he planned to contact
Mr. Grimes Wednesday to speak with him about the reversal.
Every province in Canada has either passed or introduced legislation banning
the bulk export of fresh water. The federal government promised to do the
same, but has yet to deliver.
Mr. Grimes stressed that no final decisions have been made and that the
matter would be debated in the legislature.
Ed Byrne, leader of Newfoundland's Conservative Party, attacked the move as
erratic, pointing out that Mr. Grimes was Mr. Tobin's environment minister
when the proposal was rejected.
"I think everybody's been perplexed by [Mr. Grimes's] bizarre behaviour
since he's become Premier," he said.
The province's largest student group has condemned the government for
linking water exports with a proposal to eliminate tuition fees.
"The students across this province have struggled too long toward tuition
elimination to take such a ridiculous idea seriously," Allison North, head
of the Canadian Federation of Students in Newfoundland, said in an open
letter to Mr. Grimes. "It's too big a price to pay. We refuse to have our
concerns pitted against environmental concerns."
With a report from Canadian Press

Employee Fred Holley at the village of Webster's pumping station and well field on DeWitt Road readies a water sample for a test for bacteria.
By John Kohlstrand
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
(Tuesday, March 27, 2001)  -- Webster town officials loathe their local well water.
But village officials love it. In fact, they have spent $1,500 on ads in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times hoping outsiders will love it so much that they'll buy an additional 2 million gallons daily.
The ads brag about "crystal clear well water." Webster's system has run at a fraction of its capacity ever since town officials dropped village water service in favor of the Monroe County Water Authority three years ago.
Village officials say if they sell more water, it would be easier to keep rates the lowest in Monroe County. "We thought we'd just try it," said Mayor Wilbur "Deke" Beh. "And, jeez, at the moment, we're getting some response."
One came from Texas. A man there talked of putting the water on rail cars and shipping it south. Experts say shipping water that far is usually seen as costly and might break laws that bar shipping water outside the Great Lakes basin.
Two other calls inquired about the water for bottling distribution.
Village officials say the water -- drawn from wells on the bluffs overlooking Irondequoit Bay -- would make for fine bottled mineral water. They once toyed with the idea of bottling it themselves.
"If we can get someone else to do the bottling, we'll sell them the water," Beh said.
But locally, the water quality is hotly disputed.
Town resident John C. Kuitems claims village water is so hard it could "gag a maggot."
Many village residents are proud of their water. It requires less chlorine treatment than county water drawn from Lake Ontario.
The village once sold more than 10.5 million gallons per day. Town officials -- frustrated with village water's tendency to ruin hot water heaters and dishwashers -- voted to switch to county water.
The village now sells 400,000 gallons daily. With extra capacity, officials figure they'll find someone in the market to buy.
"There are a lot of areas of the country that need water desperately, and they're willing to do almost anything to get it," Beh said.