Bush's water diversion idea angers Great Lakes neighbors 07/21
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien is expected to give a short and swift answer to President George Bush's idea of piping water from the Great Lakes to the Southwest and West.
"The prime minister will tell the president that we have a policy of not exporting water and that, I guess, will be it,'' Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson told reporters. "I imagine it will be a brief conversation.''
Bush's comments to foreign White House reporters earlier this week made headlines in Canada and raised concerns in the Great Lakes. Although the idea of exporting water from Canada and the Great Lakes to other parts of the United States has been discussed before, this is believed to be the first time a U.S. president has mentioned it.
"He is thinking too much like the governor of Texas and not enough like the president of the United States,'' former Michigan governor and U.S. ambassador to Canada Jim Blanchard said Thursday about Bush.
"I would have thought that the president would have been better informed about how people in Michigan, Ontario and Canada feel about this,'' Blanchard told Knight-Ridder Newspapers.
Bush said earlier in the week that water shortages will forever be an issue in the United States and that he is from "a part of the world where there was no water.'' He suggested Canada, the United States and Mexico could enter into a water pact similar to one the three countries are discussing concerning energy.
Environmental groups condemned Bush's comments, saying he should shape a policy that stresses better usage and conservation of existing water resources.
"I don't see any way in which Canada would allow such a proposal,'' Alden Lind, of the Save Lake Superior Association, told the Duluth News Tribune.
"I can't imagine Great Lakes states putting up with attempts to tamper with a system so sensitive to changes,'' Lind said.
Talk of diverting water has some worried about the impact on the Great Lakes.
Lind said the obvious damage would be to wetlands and the economy. The shipping and hydroelectric industries would falter at the removal of Great Lakes water. But there's also the possibility of damage to the shoreline and recreational facilities.
"Growth (in the Southwest) has been criminal because of the misappropriations of the water,'' Lind said. "They're using fresh water down there in the most wasteful ways.''
James Clift, policy director at the Michigan Environmental Council, a statewide environmental group, said diverting any water from the Great Lakes region sets a bad precedent -- even if it's from Canada.
"Any withdrawal is going to have some link to a U.S. water body,'' Clift said.
"I'm concerned about this supply-side thinking of 'We need, we need, we need.' We can get by with what we've had if we used it a little smarter,'' Clift said.
Reported by: Don Scott