Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon [official profile] on Thursday introduced legislation [press release] to strengthen prohibitions on bulk removal of Canada's fresh water outside the country. The Transboundary Waters Protection Act [C-26 text] would strengthen existing regulations by giving rivers and streams that cross international borders the same protection already in place for the Great Lakes. The bill would also give the federal government new powers of inspection and enforcement and would introduce penalties for violations, including fines of up to $6 million for corporate violations. The proposed legislation fulfills a 2008 promise by the Conservative government, but some critics claim that it does not go far enough because it exempts bottled water [Canwest report].
While Canada is believed to hold about one-fifth of the world's fresh water, water supply has become an increasingly contentious issue as the world's population continues to grow. In March, Bolivian President Evo Morales [BBC profile] called on the UN to declare access to safe drinking water a basic human right [JURIST report], marking World Water Day [official website]. In December, a California judge tentatively ruled that a 2003 Colorado River water use agreement is invalid [JURIST report]. The agreement settled a dispute over how to divide the Colorado River between California and six other states: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Under the agreement, California would significantly reduce the amount of water diverted from farms to California cities over the course of 75 years.