Yesterday, the Council of Canadians released a new report called Leaky Exports: A portrait of the virtual water trade in Canada. The report highlights the daily loss of massive amounts of the country’s fresh water used to produce commodities, minerals and energy for export. The virtual water trade refers to the embedded water transferred across borders when these goods and services are internationally traded.
Today, the Canadian Press reports (in French) that, “The United States is indirectly siphoning 60 billion cubic meters of Canadian water per year, despite the bulk water prohibitions by various provincial governments and in federal legislation, reported the daily Le Devoir in its Thursday edition. It is exported in meats, ores, petroleum products and goods of all kinds, whose manufacture requires a lot of water, that Canada is losing its aquatic heritage. That is highlighted in a report released Wednesday by the Council of Canadians, which looks at ‘virtual water exports’ to foreign countries and particularly to the United States. The importance of these exports would make Canada the second largest exporter of ‘clean’ virtual water after Australia.”
“The report, which can be accessed on the website of Le Devoir, defines virtual water exports as the volume of water used in the manufacture of goods to Canada. The main beneficiaries of the manufacture of goods requiring lots of water are the United States as they import 60 percent of Canadian agricultural production. But it is agriculture that requires the largest drain on water, representing 70 percent of total water consumption in Canada. The United States also imported 99 percent of all cattle and pig products here, not to mention the fact that Canada uses ‘and destroyed’, the report says, more than one billion cubic meters to produce oil from tar sands, much of which is exported. As for minerals, including coal Canadian extraction and primary processing require 1.1 billion cubic meters, of which 58 percent will lead the United States.”
“But does Canada have a choice, given it has introduced legislation to prevent exports and massive water diversions to the U.S. under NAFTA? Not really, according to the report, as the ongoing integration of the two economies means, for example, that two American companies control 95 percent of Canada’s beef industry and U.S. oil companies control more than 50 percent the oil sands industry.”
“Maude Barlow, of the Council of Canadians, says that the lack of concern of the Canadian government for these issues is a real threat to the country’s aquatic heritage.”
To read the article in Le Devoir in French, please go to http://www.ledevoir.com/environnement/actualites-sur-l-environnement/324059/fuite-d-eau-virtuelle.
To read our media release – ‘Canada a major exporter of virtual water, says new Council of Canadians report’ – go to http://canadians.org/media/water/2011/25-May-11.html. The 46-page report can be read at http://canadians.org/water/documents/virtual-water-0511.pdf.