TORONTO, Feb. 22, 2012 /CNW/ - The prairies' experience in handling
inter-provincial conflicts over water-use may point the way to success
in the Mackenzie River Basin, according to a report released today by
the C.D. Howe Institute. In Resolving Water-Use Conflicts: Insights from the Prairie Experience for
the Mackenzie River Basin, law professor David Percy says a cooperative approach led the prairie
provinces to a basic agreement on water sharing that works; and a
similar approach could help kick-start progress in the more complex
issues facing the Mackenzie River Basin.
"It's been 40 years since governments starting talking about a
water-sharing agreement for the Mackenzie Basin," said Professor Percy
of the University of Alberta. "A generation later, a growing population
and rapid development associated with the oil sands and other
industries, especially in the Peace-Athabasca system, have added
urgency to the task."
Professor Percy notes that in 1969, after a prolonged period of
disagreement between Alberta and Saskatchewan over conflicting
priorities for the use of prairie rivers, the two provinces joined with
the governments of Manitoba and Canada in an arrangement known as the
Apportionment Agreement. The Agreement, based on the idea that each
upstream province would allow one-half of the natural flow of the
rivers to pass to its downstream neighbours, later was extended to
groundwater and water pollution.
Professor Percy thinks a similarly modest approach could work for the
Mackenzie Basin, where the governments of Canada, Alberta, Saskatchewan
and British Columbia, as well as the Yukon and Northwest Territories,
are now attempting to negotiate an agreement for the management of the
entire aquatic eco-system, which extends over an area of more than 1.8
million square kilometers.
"Over the years, water sharing negotiations have grown to cover the
whole eco-system of the Mackenzie Basin," he notes. "A more bite-sized
approach, beginning with a simple water sharing rule, might provide a
more workable starting point."
The history in the southern prairies, says Percy, suggests that more
progress might be had if governments first sought agreement on the
basics of minimum flow regimes and water quality objectives. This would
set the foundations of the trust that would enable the provinces and
Canada to reach toward a more comprehensive agreement, with better
prospects for success.
For the report go to: http://www.cdhowe.org/pdf/Commentary_341.pdf
SOURCE C.D. Howe Institute
For further information:
Professor David Percy, Faculty of Law, University of Alberta; Colin Busby, Senior Policy Analyst, C.D. Howe Institute, 416-865-1904; firstname.lastname@example.org