The planet is drying up, and we are seeing massive desertification. We keep hearing about climate change as being only about greenhouse gas emissions…But the way we are mistreating and abusing and moving and diverting water is also a major cause of climate change, and I really hope we can put these two issues together, because actually they are the same issue. -Maude Barlow
Available fresh water represents less than half of 1 percent of the world’s total water stock (Barlow, 2001). The rest is seawater, or inaccessible in ice caps, ground water and soil. While there is a common misconception that water is infinite, increasingly we can no longer deny that water has become a quickly dwindling resource. By 2025 many analysts from both sides of the fence, from the World Bank to the Polaris institute, believe that we will be living in an era of serious water scarcity and water shortages across the globe.
At the same time, consumption of water is doubling every 20 years, and industrial water use is predicted to double by 2025.
As Barlow points out, “By the year 2025, as much as two-thirds of the world’s population…will be living in conditions of serious water shortage and one-third will be living in conditions of absolute water scarcity”.
Water is increasingly becoming a private domain of corporations, managed as a commodity to be sold to consumers, for a user fee. As water becomes more and more of a commodity through leasing and outright sales by the provincial and federal government, our rights as citizens to access safe free potable water becomes undermined.
In the view of the Council of Canadians, not only will water thus become an object of commerce for multinationals and no longer the public resource essential to the ecosystems and the people now dependent on it, in addition the NAFTA clauses on “national treatment” would confer the same rights over Canada’s water on American companies now enjoyed by domestic companies. Exactly, they say, like the gas and oil sectors in which the United States has progressively annexed Canadian reserves with no prospect of recovering them for national objectives.
In the midst of this global crisis for water, the Alberta Chamber of Resources has identified water use as one of the top four challenges for oil sands mining operations.
The legal, social and technological precedents being set by the oil sands removal and pipeline system simply begs to be repeated with water.