Unreleased Report Forecasts Water Troubles

The Council of Canadians – MiningWatch Canada

(Ottawa) The Council of Canadians and MiningWatch Canada have made public a report drafted by Environment Canada in December 2007 revealing that the agency had documented crucial information regarding the looming freshwater crisis in Canada.

The report, titled “A Federal Perspective on Water Quantity Issues”, which was obtained through an Access to Information request, warns “there may be heightened risk for jurisdictional conflict for water allocation between provinces and also between Canada and the United States.”

“The Harper government has repeatedly dismissed the threat of bulk water exports, while suppressing this report. We are concerned that this information, which contradicts Harper's claims, was not publicly released months ago,” says Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “Now we know that Environment Canada has pointed to the possibility of pressure to export water to the United States, given the water crisis in the American Southwest and the impacts of climate change.”

The Environment Canada report also highlights the myth of abundance of freshwater in Canada and emphasizes that only 1% of Canada's total water supply is renewed annually. It points to unsustainable industrial consumption of water in the energy and agricultural sectors.

The Council of Canadians and MiningWatch Canada are concerned with the lack of legislative protection for Canada's freshwater in a time of crisis and assert that recent policies have exacerbated the problem.

Both organizations have actively campaigned against “Schedule 2” of the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations under the Fisheries Act, which allows mining companies to seek permission to use freshwater bodies as tailings impoundments. So far, four lakes have been approved for destruction by toxic mine waste by the Harper government and many more are slated to face a similar fate.

“The Environment Canada report admits uncertainty about total freshwater availability in Canada, and also admits that our water resources are under increasing pressure” says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada “it is outrageous that Environment Canada is now giving away our precious fresh water ecosystems as a cheap waste dump for the mining industry. This amounts to an unsustainable and unconscionable corporate takeover of a precious public resource.”

The groups are concerned that the recommendations put forward in the report do not call for a national water policy that protects Canada\'s freshwater, bans bulk water exports and recognizes water as a human right.

The report is available below.

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