Canada moves to beef up cross-border water laws

Thu May 13, 2010 1:56pm EDT
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada plans to beef up measures to protect its massive stores of fresh water, unveiling legislation on Thursday that would strengthen prohibitions on bulk water removal, particularly on rivers that cross into the United States.

If passed, the law would create new powers of inspection and introduce fines of up to C$6 million ($5.9 million) for companies that try to export and sell water.

Canada is generally believed to be home to about one-fifth of the world's fresh water, much of it in the Great Lakes system, which straddles the border between the province of Ontario and eight U.S. states.

The new legislation will close gaps in existing provincial water protections, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said.

"Canada's fresh water is essential to the well-being of our nation. It is our livelihood, our lifeblood and Canadians want this vital resource protected," he told a news conference in Ottawa.

The bill, which fulfills a 2008 promise by the Conservative government, complements existing provincial legislation that covers several bodies of water, including the Great Lakes.

"We are strengthening our resolve to make sure that there are no exports of bulk water that take place," Cannon said.

Water supply has increasingly become both an economic and security issue as rising populations have increased demand, while industrialization and drought have hurt water sources.

Cannon said water in natural waterways is not covered by the trade rules of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

(Reporting by Cameron French; editing by Peter Galloway)

<p>Glacier Lake in the Nahanni National Park Reserve, Northwest Territories in seen in this undated handout picture released June 9, 2009. REUTERS/Ann Ronald/Parks Canada Agency/Handout</p>