Highs and Lows

A translation by Judith Turcotte.

People look to buy homes on the shores of the St. Lawrence, however, in a previous blog, I wrote that erosion inflicts appreciable damage to properties built on its shores, a phenomenon that may very well become worse as the water level increases due to climatic changes.

Global warming melts Greenland’s ice cap and the Arctic ice. The melting of this ice accelerates the increase in the sea level which has already increased by twenty centimetres since the end of the twentieth century. The effect of this increase in water levels on the tides, combined with heavy rain and destructive winds caused by climate change will increase the rate of erosion on the shores of the St. Lawrence’s estuary. For the other residents upstream from the estuary, the problem may be different: water levels may decrease.

The waters of the St. Lawrence River originate in the Greats Lakes and water levels vary from one year to the next, based on the conditions of the Great Lakes. Today, the water level of the Great Lakes is low with the consequence that the level of the St. Lawrence is also low due to the dry spring and summer months last year. We are not the only ones: the Mississippi has recently reached a record low and the same has been observed in Europe (the Rhine) and in China (the Yangtze). It seems that climate change supports the extremes between droughts and torrential rain.

The significant droughts south of our border put pressure on the authorities to find a solution to the problem and they have eyes on the Great Lakes which represent one of the world’s largest freshwater ecosystems. More than 40 million people, in both the United States and Canada live on its shores. We, in Canada, have always taken for granted that we had at our disposal enough freshwater to meet our needs. Even more than oil, water is essential for our survival: however, this reality seems to escape us. The northeast of the United States is similar to Canada and they do not worry about water but the situation is very different in the South, a region that suffers from major droughts to the point that reservoirs such as Lake Mead which supplies water to 25 million Americans in Arizona, California and Nevada is practically dry. The reservoir was created in the thirties with the construction of the Hoover Dam. The decrease in the reservoir affects the available drinking water and risks the production of electricity. For now, the governments are looking to reduce water consumption but it is a temporary solution.

Pipelines crisscross America directing oil all over the States. It is just a question of time before pipelines direct freshwater, even more essential to life, towards major urban centres. The Great Lakes, the principal source of the St. Lawrence River, become an important source of freshwater. The government in Ottawa reassures us stating that there exist bilateral agreements which ensure the maintenance of the Great Lakes’s water level. However, the United States with their heavy boots will choose to ignore these agreements. A water war is therefore likely and the chances that Canada wins are slim.

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