Quebec report seeks to divert water, generate power

Wed Jul 15, 2009 5:41pm EDT
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By Nina Lex

TORONTO (Reuters) - Quebec could raise up to C$9.5 billion ($8.5 billion) a year by reversing the flow of three northern rivers to generate power and export water to the United States, according to a report released on Wednesday.

The Montreal Economic Institute said Quebec could divert floodwaters from the three rivers in the spring, pumping the excess water higher, and then letting it flow south through the Ottawa River to the St. Lawrence.

The rivers currently flow into James Bay in northern Canada and then into Hudson Bay, a 316,000 sq mi (818,000 sq km) expanse of water that's bigger than Chile.

The report said that diverting the floodwater from north to south would boost levels on the St Lawrence River and let U.S. and Canadian authorities increase their use of fresh water from the Great Lakes without any risk to St Lawrence itself, a major international seaway.

"The revenue generated by exporting freshwater would be the result of complex negotiations between state, provincial and federal governments," said the report, compiled by former hydro-electric power engineer Pierre Gingras.

"Whatever the outcome of negotiations, and given the probable increase in the value of water in the coming years, this revenue from the sale of water would contribute significantly to the financial health of the Quebec government and the general prosperity of Quebecers."

The idea of bulk water exports from Canada has always been controversial, for political, environmental and security reasons.

But Gingras said the scheme could net the French-speaking province some C$7.5 billion a year, assuming the extra water supplied some 150 million people who paid a "very reasonable" C$50 a year for the water.   Continued...