ID No.:  GQM00256
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Report of the Commission sur la gestion de l’eau au Québec


Québec City, May 3, 2000 – In its report to Environment Minister Paul Bégin, the Commission sur la gestion de l'eau au Québec speaks out against the large-scale transfer of Québec’s freshwater resources by any means, be it diversion, pipeline, tankers or bulk containers.

The Commission says that massive water diversions to the United States for farmland irrigation is not an economically viable scheme, as the costs involved in building the structures needed to transfer Canadian water from northern river systems to the Great Lakes and from the Great Lakes to the United States would be far too high. Furthermore, the proposal would likely have major impacts on the Great Lakes ecosystem, especially given the increasing evidence of climate change.

The second proposal studied by the Commission consists in shipping water from Québec to Middle Eastern markets in tankers or other types of bulk container. However, the Commission says this is not a competitive scheme either, since it would be cheaper to desalinate seawater.

In short, the Commission is categorically opposed to the large-scale transfer of freshwater resources. "Bulk water exports are not likely to be profitable, and we cannot afford to take the environmental risks involved. Given our current state of knowledge and the uncertainties with regard to climate change, it would not be prudent to endorse such a project."

In the short term, the Commission recommends that the Québec government make the Water Resources Preservation Act permanent legislation, and that the federal government carefully consider the request by several interest groups to renegotiate the NAFTA agreements with the aim of banning bulk water exports. "Before bowing to such a request which, at first blush, is certainly appealing, the Commission feels it would be best to examine NAFTA as a whole to determine what Canada has to gain and what it has to lose by renegotiating it."

"In the long term, however," says the Commission, "we need to define a broader ethics and legal framework so we can settle disputes in the event of serious water shortages. If it is to be credible and consistent in this matter, Québec must manage its own water resources in an irreproachable manner."

The Commission’s report is available on the Internet at A CD-ROM containing the report, transcripts of the hearings, and a selection of briefs and documents submitted during the consultations is also available at the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l'environnement (BAPE).


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Serge Labrecque, Information Officer
Telephone: (418) 643-7447 or 1-800-463-4732

Ó Gouvernement du Québec 2000