Should Canada sell its water?

by MAdamowicz on September 25, 2015 - 10:12pm

   The article written by journalist Barrie McKenna discusses the potential of one of Canada’s most abundant natural resources: water. Should Canada consider exporting water to other countries, such as the United States, for profit? According to McKenna, not only do Canadian politicians rarely discuss the subject, but when it is presented, the overall consensus is a resounding no. Many provinces have already banned bulk exports and most Canadians oppose the idea. McKenna believes Canada is going in the wrong direction. With many countries facing present or future water crises, Canada should begin to take advantage. He believes that Canada should look at the financial profits of water as a resource, linking to a quote from author Rhett Larson, who states that “Canada should arguably treat water the same way it treats oil or gold”. By setting the guidelines to which water can be exported, Canada’s economy could profit while avoiding altercations with other countries, and being a part of the solution to ending the global water crisis.

   I believe that there is a moral issue attached to the control of our water. As a resource that is essential to sustain life, I don’t agree with the usual dealings of selling to the highest bidder. We have to find a way to export our water for profit to those who can afford it but also to be able to contribute to the wellbeing of the people living in developing countries. Unlike gold and oil, the entire world population needs fresh water to survive.



   McKenna, B (2015, September 21) It's time Canada reassessed its stance on selling water. The Globe and Mail. Retreived from




Hello MAadomowicz,
Your post catch my eye because it is such as controversial topic and I really liked how you posed it this way. Should we or should we not be selling our water, this is such a complex question. I agree with you that water has a moral issue attached to it and this is what makes it so hard to wrap our minds around selling it. How can we sell something that everyone on the global needs? When I think about it in this way, I often think that all 8 billion of us, should be considered a small owner of the worlds fresh water. With this in mind, I often think that if everyone is considered a part owner, then we will start respecting what we "own" better. I think that the way to address the water crisis is to perhaps not rush into selling water, but rather look at the managing this resource in a more sustainable way and creating a new way to think about water. Instead of thinking that the water is Canada's instead think of it as a Global commodity, everyone needs it therefore everyone owns it. If everyone takes care of what they own, asks questions and starts to see that the real problem here is the depletion of usable water, then maybe we will see changes in environmental management instead of changes in prices.
Thanks for posting a great topic!

This is a very intriguing subject and one I find that should be discussed more often among us. I mean, there’s fresh water all around us and we haven’t taken advantage of it yet and we should. Not only would we benefit from selling our water to other countries, but unlike digging for oil or gold, we wouldn't be hurting our environment nearly as much, if ever. In fact, if anything, we’d just be helping out other countries who are in grave need of fresh water. Your points are very true in the respect that we shouldn't just sell our water to the highest bidder, but instead, sell to those that can buy it and help those who can’t afford it. I actually think that’s a good way around the problem. If we have an abundant resource, we’d want to sell it, but at the same time, selling something that’s as valuable for everyday life like water is sort of a strange concept. Water should be free, but at the same time, we should benefit from it, right? The water’s not going to run out any time soon and people are in actual need of it, opposed to gold. If we were to sell it to those who can buy it, then from the profits, we’d have the money for when we’d send in to poorer countries who need it, so both would work hand-and-hand to benefit us and everyone else.

I really enjoyed your summary and the perspective you took to make us think about this morally. Personally, I do not think we should be selling our water. To think of the ecosystems we’d be destroying by emptying out lakes, rivers, creeks or any other water source. Selling water would be temporarily solving another country’s problem, but it would not teach them the lesson they need to learn regarding management of clean water and how to treat water that has already been used. Selling water to other countries, in my opinion, is like telling that the way they have been living is fine, and they can continue to live that way because Canada will always be there to sell them more water when they don’t have anymore. Fresh, clean and usable water is a natural resource that is not infinite. We need to learn to take better care of it!

I did a lot of research on water and I was interested on what you had to say on water issues. Indeed, it allowed me to see water problems from another perspective. I never really thought about the question: Should Canada sell its water? I agree with you on that water should not be compared to oil or gold because it is much more than that. It is something everyone has the right to need and have. However, it goes further than that. The question should now be: Does Canada have enough water to sell? In 2011, Canada had the fourth-largest supply of renewable water, according to data from the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (Loney,2013). Indeed, Canada has access to 20% of the world’s freshwater. It would take more than years before annual renewable water runs out. It would take such a long time for lake water to renew. Yet, Canada renewable water is still limited in quantity. Plus, not all water contained in lakes is considered renewable. (Loney,2013). All that to say, if we really do have water more than we need, why not share it with developing countries who need it. This water is not completely ours. Others who are in need have the right to use it. However, we are still responsible to use water in a sustainable way. In other words, we have to be careful not to outstrip the rate of renewal.

The title of the summary is a really catching question that caught my attention because I think it is a hot topic for the economy of Canada in the upcoming years. It is very debatable and I was disappointed that the leaders of the parties in the 2015 federal elections didn’t have the chance to discuss it yet. Fundamentally, I have no other choice than to agree with the assertion you made that Canada should find a way to share its water. It would be so cold-hearted to make people pay for an essential resource to life. However, and this is very unfortunate, I think that the world we live in today is being lead by capitalism and that the government will think about its own potential benefits before what the world would like. When the time comes that other rich developed countries won’t have enough water to give to its population, I think Canada will take the opportunity to boost its economy. In addition, governments tend to adopt more an anthropocentric view rather than a biocentric view, and much of the water resource is often wasted at the disadvantage of everyone.
Thank you for sharing such a great controversial subject.

Hi MAdamowicz,

Your captivating blog post raises such a controversial topic in which most of us in the Western society are not fully aware of its magnitude. I enjoyed your post as it depicts the issue of how to allocate such an important resource as water. The right to clean and fresh water is essential for each human being, and putting a cost on such a commodity as water is morally unsound. Water is an economic good, but it is so much more than that: It is the basis of all life: humans, animals, plants, and microorganisms. It is integral to the health and beauty of Canada's landscape. Governments are morally obligated to mitigate and allocate water to those who are lacking such a supply and at the same time, not waste such a valuable resource for their own self-serving needs such as taking a 30 minute shower. Thank you for bringing this particular water issue to light.


I was so pleased to come across your post, as the sale of our natural resources is something I'm quite passionate about. I agree that something as precious as water shouldn't be sold to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, Canada has already begun the steps to sell our water. Nestle currently takes huge amounts of water from B.C. at no cost. Beginning in 2016, they will be required to pay for the water they take, but they’ll only have to pay the low cost of two dollars and twenty five cents per million liters; this is roughly the price that we, as consumers, will have to pay for half a liter. So, how should we go about solving this moral dilemma? We need to think about the long term effects that this will have on our country and our economy. Because groundwater is considered a non-renewable resource, I think that it would be best to apply a teleological point of view on the issue, specifically a utilitarian view, in order for us to solve this dilemma. John Stuart Mill’s ethical theory of Utilitarianism places importance on the greatest good for the greatest number of people; more information about this is available through the following link, ( Currently, Nestle is the only one benefiting from this deal. I believe that the government of B.C. should apply a utilitarian view on the issue and start thinking about how to bring the greatest good to the citizens of Canada, instead of the greatest profit to Nestle. Canada is lucky to have many natural resources. However, if we make all of our natural resources for sale, especially at such a low cost, where will we be in 50 years? When we’ve cut down the last tree, sold the last bit of oil and our last drop of water, what state will our economy be in? What will the quality of life in Canada become? We wouldn’t have to ask ourselves these kinds of questions if we knew that the government was concerned about the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Therefore, because of the reasons I’ve listed above, I think that a utilitarian perspective is the only way in which we’ll be able to solve this ethical dilemma.

Hey, MAadomowicz
Your article caught my attention due to your topic that you choose to write about is a very interesting topic and there is a lot of debates around it. It’s also a very Canadian issue due to our extensive amount of fresh water available to use in lakes and in groundwater. It also has an ethical aspect to it, being that the question of whether water should have a price or it should be considered a human necessity. Personally I believe that humans should get the necessary amount for life and anything extra should cost money. Lastly, as a developed nation do we have a responsibility to share our water and resources in general to impoverished nations?

Hello MAadomowicz,

I really found your post very interesting! I remember in high school doing a project related to the privatization of water, and I talked about a lot of similar points that you brought up in your post (everyone needing water, Canadian parliament's reluctance to discuss the issue, etc.). I think the similarities are what made me so interested in your post!

Personally, my belief is that water, in any form, should not be privatized, unless it's for an extremely dire reason. The reasons I believe this are the fact that everyone needs water to survive, as you mentioned, and also because privatization causes serious controversy between and within countries. Allowing for easier access to water would either reduce conflict or prevent it altogether!

Great post, keep up the good work!

Best regards:
Jonathan (JVine70).

Hello MAdamowicz,
The title of your post really caught my attention as I browsed through the pages of NewsActivist in search of a good read. The concept of exporting Canadian water for profit is, as you said, rarely if ever discussed by our nation’s leaders. However, with the overhanging threat of Climate Change and the almost certain desolation that is bound to worsen over time if we continue on the same treacherous path, it may soon become a reality. Therefore, addressing this topic now allows us to prepare ourselves for what is or may be to come.
The point you made on not proceeding with the sale of water as we would with regular commodities (selling to the highest bidder), but instead focusing more on the altruistic aspect of providing the basic necessity to those who need it the most was spot on. As a nation with such huge reserves of fresh water, we hold a duty to share some of the resource with those less fortunate. To clarify, I am not saying that we should freely give away all of our water, but that if there is a real need somewhere in the world for it, we are obliged to share. Water is the essential formula to life. We Canadians own so much of it by pure chance and due to borders drawn on a map. In reality, everyone should be considered a partial owner as we all reside on the same planet and require it to survive. However, such fantasies are not impossible nor compatible with our economy. Nevertheless, the responsibility remains on us as human beings to do what is right and just by our neighbours.

In my opinion, the commodification of Canada’s water can be broken down into two separate arguments. Firstly, there exists an issue of ethics. Since water is a basic human need and access to water is a human right, is Canada obligated to sell its water to nations under water crises before selling it to nations who have sufficient access to water? And if so, how should water be priced? Is it even ethical to be selling a basic human right? Further, as we begin to feel the effects of climate change, how can we ensure that we will have enough water for our own nation in the coming years? These are challenging, but necessary questions that must be addressed before we begin to give other nations access to our natural resources.

The second issue that must be confronted is that of sustainability. If we are to begin selling another of our natural resources, how are we to ensure sustainable quantities of water in order to maintain water as a renewable resource? For a resource to be renewable, the extraction rate must be lower than that of regeneration. This issue will no doubt become more complicated as the effects of climate change begin to set in. Already we are experiencing the effects of climate change through extended periods of drought and decreased rainfall in some areas. How are we to accurately determine the level of risk and regeneration among all the uncertainties?

It is not at all surprising that political bodies have largely ignored this issue. It is riddled with complications and will no doubt reveal a broad range of opinions. With that being said, this is an issue that will only become more prominent with climate change. Therefore, developing ethical and sustainable strategies now will be key to ensuring successful economic growth, environmental sustainability and moral decision-making. Unfortunately, in order to see the enactment of appropriate regulations, we must first escape the cycle of political inertia and begin the conversation. This will not be an easy process, but it is critical that it starts sooner rather than later.