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LETTER: Lui vs Reguly on water-intensive industries

Emma Lui

Yesterday, Globe and Mail columnist Eric Reguly wrote that Canada should welcome the reality that “water-intensive industries will have to migrate from water-scarce to water-rich regions of the planet” and that instead of pursuing bulk water exports, it would be “best (for Canada) to make the jobs come to the water instead.” He further argues, “Once you understand that China has to phase out its thirstiest industries or risk starving itself, you might see how water-rich Canada could emerge as one of the world’s great manufacturing countries, a role it’s given up in recent decades in favour of digging up oil and minerals.” To Reguly, that means water-intensive “sunset industries such as steel and chemicals could revive in Canada, as could food processing and beverages.”

Today, Council of Canadians national water campaigner Emma Lui responded in a letter to the editor published in the Globe and Mail that, “Canada is commonly referred to as water-rich with 20 per cent of global water supplies – but it only has 6.5 per cent of the world’s renewable water. Leaky Exports, a report released this week by the Council of Canadians, identifies Canada as the second net virtual water exporter in the world. Virtual water is defined as the sum of water used in the production of a good or service. Canada’s net annual virtual water exports (exports minus imports) amount to just under 60 billion cubic metres, enough to fill the Rogers Centre in Toronto 37,500 times. Every year, Canada exports an amount of virtual water in wheat, barley, rye and oats equivalent to twice the annual discharge of the Athabasca River. The report dispels the myth Canada could be a haven for water-intensive industries currently operating in water-scarce regions. If governments allow Canada’s economy to continue producing water-intensive goods with the assumption our water is limitless, we may be in China’s position sooner than we think.”

Lui’s letter can be read at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/letters-to-the-editor/may-28-letters-to-the-editor/article2037902/. Her blog on the Leaky Exports report can be read at http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/making-waves/2011/05/council-canadians-new-report-leaky-exports-portrait-virtual-wate.

To read our 46-page report Leaky Exports, please go to http://canadians.org/water/documents/virtual-water-0511.pdf.