|Montreal, December 20, 2003 / No 135|
by Harry Valentine
Within the past month, several news media articles focused on research reports about the effects of global warming and climate change on Canada. Those effects are supposed to include less summer rainfall, more summer droughts, more winter ice storms, more winter rainfall, reduced hydro-electric generation capacity and dropping water levels in the Great Lakes. In one report, Prof. Philippe Crabbe of the University of Ottawa recommended that climate change be a provincial responsibility, urging that both provincial and municipal governments adjust their services in response to the expected weather changes. All the reports were government funded and all recommended increased funding and expanded authority to various government agencies. No reference was made to the fact that a plethora of academic material reveals that governmental regulatory policies administered by such agencies almost consistently fail in the long term.
Existing government policies prevent private organizations and individuals
from independently initiating constructive action to solve problems that
they could solve on their own. A variety of laws, regulations and bylaws
prohibit private land owners living in rural areas from digging large holes
on their properties, holes that could be used as covered earth dams storing
water. In an environment free from governmental control, rural land owners
could build a series of small-site hydro-electric dams at favourable sites
along a variety of smaller rivers passing adjacent to or through their
properties. During the early spring run-off, excess water in the hydro
dams could be piped into the covered earth dams, perhaps filling them with
enough water to supplement the rural water supply during predicted periods
of prolonged future summer drought. The combination of small-site hydro
dams and covered earth dams is a solution that ordinary people could implement
without supervision or control by government officials.
Canadian beaver technology
Canadian beavers have already shown that this concept works during drought conditions. A recent documentary aired on The Discovery Channel showed how a series of beaver dams built along a stream on an island in Northen Canada stored enough water for the region to endure a prolonged and severe summer drought. The stored water in the beaver dams sustained an abundance of vegetation, in turn sustaining the herbivores (elk), in turn sustaining the carnivores (wolf and bear). People living along rivers and streams in rural regions can duplicate this beaver technology as a way of managing prolonged summer droughts.
The problem is, they are presently prohibited by force of law from doing so. During the summer drought of 2002, several small Eastern Ontario communities that depended on river water faced a severe water shortage. A dozen of these drought-stricken communities were located right next to railway lines which crossed major rivers within a distance of 100 km, allowing railway tankers cars to have been used to transport water to these towns. The provincial government's river conservation authorities, who have jurisdiction over the region's rivers and indirectly even the municipal water supplies, had no authority to transport water into the area from outside their jurisdiction.
In a regime of property rights where private ownership of sections of rivers prevailed, downstream dam owners could not flood upstream properties, nor would upstream owners be allowed to pollute the water supply flowing downstream. If a violation occurred, the offended party could claim damages in court from the offending property owner. But governments have until now refused to relinquish control over the rivers, and to recognize and uphold private property rights for sections of rivers. They also refuse to totally deregulate the generation, distribution and sale of rural electric power. Instead of closing their conservation authorities, governments keep such bureaucracies since they are mandated to protect and manage wild life. Eastern Ontario's rising epidemic of collisions on the public roads between road vehicles and wild life such as deer and moose, is a direct result of the government-run wildlife management program.
A series of privately owned hydro dams could be built along several large Canadian rivers, increasing year round water storage capacity and moderating seasonal fluctuations in water flow rate. Toward the end of the 2003 summer, Vancouver's fresh water supply reached a critical level, a near water-shortage caused by an inadequate water storage capacity and state control over the water supply. Government regulation in British Columbia prevents the building of privately owned hydro dams on the province's rivers, a legacy of state ownership and control of hydro-electric power generation. That legacy affects the fresh water supply, a problem that could become more acute during future periods of low rainfall. Several inlets fed by rivers are located north of Vancouver and are natural reservoirs for storing fresh water that could be sent by pipeline into Vancouver. Except government regulation may prevent that too.
It has been estimated that up to 50% of Canada's fresh water flows northward, into James Bay and the Arctic. The fresh water outflow from hydro dams emptying into James Bay, from Quebec and Ontario, could be piped south to major cities like Montreal, Ottawa or Toronto during future summer droughts. In Western Canada, fresh water from rivers like the Mackenzie could be piped southward into drought stricken regions of Alberta or Saskatchewan. Areas in Southwestern Ontario such as Kitchener-Waterloo endured low water supply levels during 2002; however, a fresh water pipeline from Georgian Bay to this area is technically possible. But such a proposal would face stiff political opposition due to international political agreements and political sensitivities pertaining to the American Garrison Diversion proposal involving Canadian water resources.
Several large Middle Eastern coastal centres located in desert regions use desalinated ocean water for human consumption. Santa Catalina in California uses desalinated ocean water as potable drinking water, sent along a piping system separate from the one that carries toilet water, which also uses recycled ocean water. This is one future option for Canada's large coastal cities if long-term reduced rainfall occurs in the future. The duplicate water piping system could be used in several large inland cities, allowing re-treated and continuously recycled waste water to be supplied for non-potable uses. Traditional toilets presently use 1.6 gallons (6 to 7 litres) of potable water per flush, while modern composting toilets use a fraction of that amount. These units can be used year round in private homes to reduce water usage. A range of solutions exists whereby future water supply levels may be assured despite the potential threat of severe summer droughts.
Dropping water levels
Reduced water levels in the Great Lakes has become a cause for concern, as it would reduce hydro-electric generation capacity(1) as well as threaten the water supplies of several major population centres. It would also affect shipping on the St. Lawrence Seaway system, a political mega-project from a bygone era. Plans to enlarge and deepen the Seaway system to allow larger ocean-going ships passage to Lake Superior, may have to be terminated at the Port of Montreal if water levels in the Great Lakes continue dropping. If this happens, future water flow rates between Lake Ontario and Montreal may have to be drastically reduced, to maintain water supplies for cities and towns along that route.
Montreal harbour may become the main inland terminal for large ocean going vessels, overwhelming the port with ever increasing volumes of cargo being transferred to the railways or to trucks. Given that the Seaway system closes annually during winter months, a year-round future suspension of the Seaway system may actually be manageable. The total economic deregulation of the railways, as suggested in a previous article (see TRANSPORTATION GRIDLOCK IN CANADA'S HEARTLAND, le QL, no 134), could ensure that the public highways do not become overcrowded with an excess volume of truck traffic operating to and from the Port of Montreal.
If the government funded research reports on climate change is based on valid science and not the junk science that forms the basis of government environmental programs, then future climate change would be inevitable. Anti-Kyoto scientists from both Carleton University and the University of Ottawa have advised that global warming may have more to do with our solar system's location in the Milky Way galaxy, than with CO2 emission. However, private individuals are far more capable of initiating constructive action and of dealing with these future challenges than any government controlled program. It is unlikely that the state will allow them the freedom to do so, instead initiating well-intended programs that may guarantee future water shortages.
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