By Ron Heusen
Ninety-seven percent of the world’s water is saline and not fit for human consumption or irrigation.
The remaining three per cent is fresh water of which 2.5 per cent is locked ice. The remaining 0.5 per cent makes up our fresh water aquifers and the surface water that sustains all terrestrial life on earth.
The global hydrologic cycle that replenishes this half percent is a process that delivers this finite resource (water) to the world through wind driven circulation cells, each spanning 30 degrees of latitude.
The strongest cell is the Hadley, where warm moisture laden equatorial air rises and flows northward until it cools and deposits as precipitation. Most Canadians live in the Ferrel cell, positioned between the warm wet Hadley and the cold dry polar cell.
Global temperatures influence the amount of moisture these cells carry and where they release it. As global warming takes effect, climate change models predict some parts of Canada will see more moisture and some areas less.
Given 60 per cent of our water flows toward the unpopulated remote north, Canada does not have abundantly available water, making what we do have precious.
Fresh water is not just for drinking; it translates into food production, energy production and drives industry. That tiny half per cent of global fresh water supports everything we know.
Escalating contamination, strained and exhausted aquifers, expanding human populations and global warming are drawing humankind into a fresh water access crisis.
America’s “Great Plains” Ogallala aquifer, that lies beneath eight states and irrigates 27 per cent of U.S. irrigated land, is drying up due to over pumping. Some of us will likely be alive to see the death of that aquifer that is millions of years old.
The pending global water crisis has not escaped the opportunistic attention of multinational corporations. They are making privatization inroads into the consolidation of global water supplies, they have World Trade Organization and World Bank support and they want deregulation.
Under NAFTA, significant control of Canadian resources was lost to the Americans, and many believe that included our water.
The Security and Prosperity Partnership, a secretive trilateral (U.S., Canada, and Mexico) think-tank made up of government officials and corporate leaders, has placed water transfers from Canada to the U.S. on their agenda.
This may appear benign, but a global oil industry was born from one well in 1859 in Oil Creek, Pa.
When we look at the history of the oil industry, it is not hard to imagine a future with profit focused American companies controlling Canadian water on the open market.
The power that could come from businesses marketing a product, upon which everything depends, could be staggering.
The increasing value of water combined with global shortages could make well-funded legal departments providing advice to disingenuous public relation firms, powerful lobbyists influencing governments, economic disenfranchisement of water-starved nations, increasing global tensions and further marginalization of the domestic poor, reasonable predictions.
Will Canadians, suffering the malaise of perceptual disempowerment, even consider the ethics of whether our future American controlled Canadian fresh water is a global “right of life” or a “right of price”?
Retired Nanaimo resident Ron Heusen writes every second week. He can be reached through the News Bulletin at email@example.com.