The Harper government’s assault on Canada’s freshwater.
Canadians have long taken our water heritage for granted. This is largely due to the myth that we have an abundance of water and can never run out. While it is true that compared to many other parts of the world Canada is blessed with water, it is false that we have water to waste or sell.
It is often quoted that Canada holds one-fifth of the world’s water supplies and until recently, this “fact” could be found on the Environment Canada web-site. As aquatic scientist John Sprague explains, this estimation comes from tabulating the water sitting in Canada’s lakes. The only way to use this water is to drain the lakes, which would obviously destroy whole watersheds. Canada has, in fact, about 6.5 per cent of the world’s renewable water – water that we can use without destroying the stock.
But even this is misleading as most of our water flows north to mighty rivers out of reach of the 90 per cent of Canadians who live in the south along the Canada-U.S. border. The supply of water in the south is only 2.6 per cent of the world’s total and is diminishing at a “troubling rate” according to government studies. Largely due to climate change, southern Canada has lost enough water to fill 1.4 million Olympic-sized swimming pools every year over the past three decades – a decline of 8.5 per cent.
A 2012 study by a group of American scientists, published in the journal Geoscience, stated that the drought western North America has experienced during the last decade is the worst in 800 years. The situation will steadily decline, say the authors, and the droughts we are experiencing now will likely be seen as the “wet end” of a drier hydro-climate predicted for the rest of the 21st century. Canada is not immune to the water crisis facing the planet.
This report will examine Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s record on freshwater protection. It is important to state that the Harper government is not the first to have neglected Canada’s freshwater heritage. Successive federal Liberal and Conservative governments have bought into the myth of water abundance and have allowed serious deterioration of our lakes, rivers and groundwater.