Fresh Water Reserves and Oil Pipelines

The laying of pipes into a trench.
The shoreline of a Canadian lake.
Protesters protesting tar sands excavations, also known as oil sands excavations, and oil pipelines.
An oil sands facility and workers in blue overalls in Alberta.
Irrigation of a vineyard in British Columbia.

Fresh water exists in great amounts in Canada’s lakes and ground water, and can therefore usually be supplied to Canadian households without causing significant scarcity problems. Lake and groundwater, too, are used for irrigation of farmland, even though rain water is often enough to keep fields and pastures sufficiently moist.

Fresh water security

Though fresh water, as previously mentioned, exists in sufficient supply in Canada under normal circumstances, parts of the country do experience occasional droughts. These droughts, due to their adverse effects on plant-based food production, serve to remind people of the importance of water for life and well-being. The dry-spells, too, have likely motivated, or re-enforced, the Canadian government’s decision to not export large quantities of water from the country’s big lakes, even though customers in dryer parts of the world certainly would like to buy it. As the government sees it, such actions would jeopardize Canada’s own ecosystems and long-term fresh water security, and should thus not be done.

Nevertheless, the Canadian government does allow large quantities of many other natural resources to be exported to foreign countries. Canadian timber, minerals and oil, for example, are all sold in large quantities abroad, generating important money to the government in the form of various taxes. However, the production and export of oil, in particular, has caused a great deal of controversy due to concerns about its impact on the environment.

Conflict over oil

Addressing the production of oil, environmentalist groups and local populations argue that Canada’s oil sands excavations create toxic waste that has devastating effects on the surrounding flora and fauna. The same groups also claim that the oil pipelines, which are used to transport the black gold, run the risk of leaking. Responding to environmental concerns, the oil companies and their supporters argue that oil extraction and production are performed in an environmentally responsible way, create jobs and strengthen Canada’s economy.