The Case of Canadian Bulk Water Exports

  • Rhett Larson Arizona State University


Canada has twenty per cent of the planet’s total fresh water supply. Canada’s water wealth raises the possibility of shipping water in bulk, through tankers or pipelines, to regions suffering from drought. On the one hand, bulk water exports could be an economic boon for Canada and a possible solution to the rising concerns over global water security. On the other hand, bulk water exports could deplete Canada’s water supplies and thereby impact the environment, while creating unsustainable water dependences in its trade partners who may be better served by conserving water, rather than importing water.
Canada can engage in sustainable and responsible bulk water exports if it implements necessary legal and regulatory reforms. First, Canada’s treaties should characterize bulk water exports as a “good” for purposes of international trade and investment law. This will allow water pricing and international law to more effectively encourage sustainable management. Second, Canada can formalize already-existing bulk water export relationships through treaties that encourage localized transboundary cooperation. Third, Canada should include water embedded in its agricultural and energy imports and exports to more accurately account for possible water trade deficits.

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