Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources

Issue 2 - Evidence - November 23, 2004


OTTAWA, Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources met this day at 7:15 p.m. to examine and report on emerging issues related to its mandate.

Senator Tommy Banks (Chairman) in the Chair.

[English]

The Chairman: Honourable senators, we should deal with two tiny pieces of business before we welcome our guests. You will have seen a letter sent by the clerk addressed to me but, in essence, it is addressed to all of us, from Bombardier Recreational Products Inc. having to do with Bill S-12. I simply refer it to your attention. When that bill arrives and when the subject matter is raised with witnesses, we will take this into account.

I would remind you that the manufacturers, per se, have never appeared before us in any of the manifestations of Bill S-12. They have always been represented by their industry organization. In this case, the principal manufacturers have asked to appear on Bill S-12 when it is before our committee.

I would also mention a letter that you have not seen from the Canadian Association for Renewable Energies that makes interesting claims. Ms. Myers has said that they are in the main and on balance true in that the measurements as published by NRCAN having to do with what they see as renewable energy in Canada are far from complete. This may have a small place in the study we have agreed to undertake about the bottleneck and why there is inertia in these areas. I wanted you to know that we have received this letter and we are putting it aside until we decide whether we will pursue this matter. We already have three items before the committee, and I am sure that we are reluctant to add another. However, this issue may tie in with the first item.

Senator Christensen: Ms. Myers, did you circulate the information regarding the subsidies provided in other countries?

Ms. Lynne Myers, Research Analyst, Science and Technology Division, Library of Parliament: I can do that for you, senators.

Senator Christensen: We should have that data.

Ms. Myers: I will send it to Keli for translation.

Senator Christensen: It is on the subsidies on Solar panels in Japan, Australia and Germany.

The Chairman: Would you please send the piece to the clerk?

Ms. Myers: Yes

Senator Christensen: Lynne did the research on it. It should be part of our information for the study.

The Chairman: Thank you.

Members, our guests today, who I am now happy to welcome, are Dr. John Carey, the Director General of the National Water Research Institute of the Environmental Conservation Service, accompanied by our fast-becoming friend, Jennifer Moore, Director General of the Water Policy and Coordination Directorate of the Environmental Conservation Service, who was with us before. We are hopeful, I remind members, of hearing some direction for our investigation into questions having to do with water from the first three witnesses before this committee, of whom Dr. Carey is the first.

Mr. John H. Carey, Director General, National Water Research Institute, Environmental Conservation Service, Environment Canada: I would like to thank you for the invitation to address you. This is my first time at a Senate committee.

I live in Burlington. For those who do not know, the National Water Research Institute is among the largest water research institutes in the world. We have more than 320 people. It is part of Environment Canada, the federal government. Many of those people are located in Burlington; there is another healthy contingent in Saskatoon, as well as 20 or so here in Gatineau, some in Fredericton and some in Victoria. We are spread across the country, working on various aspects of water science.

In preparing for this presentation, I understood that you would particularly like a Western focus. Therefore, many of the scientists who work out of Saskatoon — and, in fact, Dr. Wrona, who leads that unit, although he is currently in Victoria — were heavily involved in preparing the presentation.

To begin with, one of the things we must realize in Canada is, as many people know, we have a lot of geography. Much of that geography is covered in water, and it has created an impression in our country that we have a great deal of water. The fact is that in parts of our country, as you will see, that is not the case. In many parts of the country where we have a lot of standing water, that water is 10,000 years old, left over from glaciers. Even in the Great Lakes region, our consumption more or less matches what is renewable each year. We are not really in a surplus situation despite the appearance of a lot of water hanging around, particularly in Eastern Canada.

With respect to Western Canada, one of the biggest aspects that we see is trying to match the economic growth that is occurring with the fact that it actually is a pretty water-challenged region. It always was. There are increasing threats due to the expansion of human activities, both population growth and the economic activities and alterations in land use, and these threats are significant. However, all of those, in our opinion, pale when it comes to the threat raised by climate change.

One of the aspects of climate change that we find most difficult to get across is that it will not be the same across the country. In fact, if you take an average temperature across the country, it is not changing all that much; but the fact is some regions are cooling and some are warming. More importantly, if you look at the average flow in some of our Western rivers, you will see that it does not change very much year to year; but if you look at the seasonal distribution of water, you will see a bigger spring peak and much-reduced summer flows.

What that points out to us is climate change will impact on the water cycle in ways that are quite unpredictable and regionally different. The geographical scale of the models that we have currently to predict the impact of climate change in Canada is too large to be of much use in telling any individual region what will likely happen, what a likely scenario is. Part of the activity in Environment Canada with respect to water issues, particularly as it pertains to Western Canada, is trying to reduce the geographical scale of these regional models to make them more relevant for water in the hydrologic cycle.

One of the activities that my institute is involved in, along with the Meteorological Service — the folks who predict weather — is trying to couple these scaled-down regional models with our models for how water actually flows through rivers. We hope that within a few years we will be able to make predictions for water availability in our major urban basins over the summer. That could be particularly important for water management in Western Canada.

For us, the big threat — and I almost went to the big conclusion right away — certainly the one that has caught our attention the most, is trying to understand the changes in geographical and seasonal distribution of water in different regions of Canada in light of our changing climate.

I am sure you have all heard that areas in Western Canada, particularly Southeastern Alberta, face significant water challenges right now in terms of quantity. In fact, they do a pretty good job; they could do better, but they do a good job of being efficient in their use of water, and they have to. Even with that, Minister Taylor observed a year ago that it is highly likely that development in some areas of Alberta will have to be curtailed simply because of the lack of availability of water to support it.

In the presentation, which I believe you all have, you will see a map on slide 3 or 4. It is not exactly a complex map. We have a lot of maps and we can give you more. This one looks at water use and availability by drainage area; it categorizes by drainage area the per cent to which surface water is abstracted and used.

You will see a peak area comprising basically Southern Alberta, Southern Saskatchewan and a small part of Manitoba. That is an area where more than 40 per cent of the surface water flow is used, is abstracted.

That can tell you a couple of things. First, it is not exactly the most sustainable situation to have that much water coming out of a river. We need actual water left in a river for fish and ecosystems to function.

The Chairman: I want to ensure we understand this. Pardon my interrupting you. This is not indicative of flow; this is indicative of uptake use.

Mr. Carey: Water use in relation to flow. The greater-than-40-per-cent region means more than 40 per cent of the flow of those rivers is abstracted for use.

The Chairman: So the Red Deer area is in the greatest trouble.

Mr. Carey: That is where it is most challenged, that is correct.

We wanted to point that out because that is a significant issue. One of the issues that we wrestle with, and we do not have an answer for, is related to something we call ``instream flow needs.'' It is a very uninformative term, but it means if you plan to take water out of a river, how much can you take out and still have a sustainable ecosystem? What are the flow needs of the biota and the ecosystem that we ought to know about before we get into situations like 40 per cent or more being used for irrigation and other consumptive uses?

Therefore, this region we would know as a semi-arid region. It is not a desert, but there is not a lot of water to go around. The water that is there has high demands placed on it. For that reason, you will see in the next slide that all of the Western provinces have taken conservation of water resources seriously and have water protection strategies.

The highlights of Alberta's strategy are the protection of a safe and secure drinking water supply, healthy aquatic ecosystems in relation to the in-stream flow needs and invasive species, and, because of the importance of irrigated agriculture in that area, a reliable quality of water that is suitable for irrigation in quantities that can be used including water use in industrial areas such as oil sands. Those are the major elements of Alberta's strategy.

Saskatchewan's safe drinking water strategy includes the protection of source water through the creation of a watershed authority. Saskatchewan has some concerns with respect to methods of treatment and providing municipalities with the means to treat drinking water. This is an issue for many areas in western and northern Canada — appropriate methods of treatment for small communities and northern communities because they are not just scaled-down versions of the infrastructure that we have in large cities in Eastern Canada.

In British Columbia we see strengthening measures for protection to ensure healthy aquatic ecosystems, human health and safety, and sustainable economic use. The three major themes are: sustainable economic use of water, that is, a sustainable supply at qualities that are capable of being used; protection of human health from water-based hazards; and protection of aquatic ecosystems. You will see mention of those three themes throughout many of the strategies.

Finally, Manitoba specifically highlights something called integrated water resource management, IWRM. That is one of the challenges. It has been around for a long time and I am sure many of you have heard of it before. It means taking competing uses into account in an overall, integrated assessment of how water will be allocated and not just focusing on one particular use or demand for the water.

In 2001, the NWRI tried to prepare an analysis of the threats to water resources in Canada. I believe this information has been circulated to the committee. We began with an analysis of the threats to sources of drinking water and aquatic ecosystem health. We focused on water quality primarily because, as you remember, we had some tragedies related to water quality at that time. Water quality was an issue and we wanted to ensure that our science was focused on the actual threats. We produced this document as a guide to our thinking.

More recently, in conjunction with the meteorological service, we produced a companion document on threats to water availability in Canada. I do not know if senators have seen that yet, but more than one half of the chapters deal with climate change and its threat to water availability.

With respect to reference documents, the summaries were produced by invited experts. Each chapter was written by six or so people who were invited from across Canada and, in some cases, internationally. We asked them to write one chapter each on these issues and put them together as a summary to help guide some of the deliberations that we have with respect to where our priorities lie.

To give you a flavour for what is contained in these, I would draw your attention to the two figures that are oval- shaped in the presentation. The first one deals with water quality. The inner circle represents stresses that affect water quality, such as agriculture and forestry land use practices, municipal wastewater discharges, industrial discharges, waste disposal, natural sources of contaminants, and urban run-off. We consider those to be the sources.

The next circle out is the kinds of stresses that those sources produce. Those stresses range from pathogens or microbes, nutrients, endocrine disrupting substances, persistent organic pollutants, acidifying contaminants, genetically modified organisms, algal toxins and pesticides.

Around that oval, we have the global trends, where we have attached climate change. I have talked a bit about climate change as it relates to water quantity but, certainly, climate change will also affect water quality in ways that we are still learning about. Of course, water availability affects water quality as well.

The second figure is a quick summary of what you will find in the threats to water availability document. Basically, the sources of threats are agriculture land use, forestry practices, industrial and manufacturing demands, and urban and residential development uses. Some areas where we see the effects are the frequency of droughts and floods and alterations in the hydrological cycle, or alterations in the seasonal distribution of water, even if the total does not change. Another effect on water availability is the flow regulations for dams and reservoirs. That may be an issue if, for example, we try to increase Canada's generation of hydro through small-scale developments as a method of renewable energy. We are worried that this may have a greater impact on smaller rivers than we have already seen.

We have a water apportionment issue, particularly in Western Canada. Surrounding all that, in our view, are uncertainties related to climate change and variability, and its impact on the water cycle through precipitation.

With respect to Western Canadian water quality, some issues that provincial water managers face include the development of watershed-based source protection programs for ground and surface water that is used for drinking water. Senators will remember that in the Battlefords, the source of the contamination that sickened the people was a discharge up stream of the treatment intake. In a number of places in Western Canada the choices of the water available for use are limited. In some cases the source water needs to be protected in better ways than we have used to date.

In addition, in Western Canada in particular, there is the increasing potential to contaminate surface and groundwater through point and non-point source nutrient and contaminant inputs. We have not paid enough attention to the contamination of groundwater from agriculture. We do not know the degree to which nitrate, for example, from fertilizers has polluted our groundwater. We do know that in many — more than there should be — wells that we sampled the nitrate levels were higher than allowed under drinking water standards. The source of that is the over utilization of nutrients or lack of best management practices in the use of nutrients in years past.

Ultimately, if climate change does impact the availability of groundwater, and that may sound strange but the groundwater cycle involves recharging at certain times of the year when water flows into the ground and is available later, we predict that for some areas that recharge will decrease. That means the net groundwater available in the future may decrease and some of these contaminated aquifers that we do not use now may be the only ones available in a worst case scenario. We are not predicting that, but it could happen in some areas. That is one of our concerns.

We still have sources of contaminants from agricultural and forestry operations, although, increasingly we have been addressing those point sources. For example, in pulp mills across Canada, we have seen that since 1992, 99 per cent of the chlorinated dioxins and furans have been reduced or eliminated. Approximately 70 per cent of the suspended solids and 90 per cent of the biological oxygen demand has been removed. For the major point sources, we have actually seen significant progress in Canada. However, as the economy grows and we have more of them, we will have to do more to sustain that position of significant progress. We have not quite matched the progress in non-point sources, in particular agriculture.

This is sometimes frustrating for people — and I know that my institute has been responsible for some of it — but we discover new contaminants; things we did not know about. Sometimes, that is because we have new equipment that allows us to do types of analysis we have not done before. That is certainly what is happening now.

You may be aware of the pharmaceutical issue, the fact that we see pharmaceutical residues in our municipal waste water. Recently, we have actually detected extremely low levels of a couple of pharmaceuticals in treated drinking water in Southern Ontario. We could do that because of analytical advances. They probably always were there and probably in higher concentrations than they are now, but we have never been able to detect them because we did not have the equipment to take us to that low level for those types of compounds. However, we can do so now.

We are concerned about some of those pharmaceuticals because, in our assessment of pharmaceuticals put on the market, we did not consider environmental concerns. We considered safety for people. It turns out that organisms like fish, which have to live in the water and are exposed to the very low levels of these pharmaceuticals, can be sensitive at some time in their lives to endocrine disrupters. Some common pharmaceuticals appear — and I say ``appear'' because this is an emerging field — to be capable of disrupting the endocrine system. Ibuprofen, for example, appears to affect testosterone production in male goldfish at very low levels — levels that should cause us some concern because they are at the same type of concentrations that we see in sewage effluent. That is looming. We do not quite know what we will do about it yet. We are still learning about the scope of the issue. We think that will be an interesting problem for us.

For many of the contaminants, we have adopted — through the Canadian Environmental Protection Act that you will be aware of — a pollution prevention philosophy rather than a treatment philosophy. However, with pharmaceuticals, we clearly want to garner the benefit of these drugs to treat people and that means that they will be in sewage. There is no real pollution prevention option here. We must do a better job of treatment. At this point, we are not sure what methods we will be able to use to do a better job of treatment. Some will be aware that secondary municipal waste water treatment in Canada is not applied universally across the country. In some cases, we have major communities with no treatment whatsoever. We are saying that secondary treatment is not good enough for these substances.

It will be an interesting challenge for us. If we potentially couple that with some municipal water use strategies that keep water out of the system that does not need to be in it, we might be able to better treat the water we actually have left. However, that would require an acceptance in Canada of things like water reuse and recycling. In Southeastern Alberta, that will be a significant issue and they will probably lead us because we do not have standards at the moment. Countries that adopt water reuse and recycling for real, like Israel and Australia, have a set of up to seven different grades of water, depending on how you want to use it in these recycling programs. If they are planning to use it in a car wash, they do not treat it as if it were drinking water. In our country we still flush drinking water down the toilets. We treat to a very high standard; we do not worry about the degree to which that is lost in the system. About 30 per cent of that could be lost in our system and we do not worry about it because we think we have lots of water.

Pharmaceuticals, pathogens and some pesticides continue to be an issue. Invasive species is an area that I hope you do not ask too many questions about from a Western context. I am very aware of that threat to the Great Lakes. It is rather interesting to me that we have the Great Lakes water quality agreement with the U.S., which says that we will restore the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Great Lakes. We have identified 164 invasive species in the Great Lakes that were not there before. Our chances of eliminating these are zero. They have a major ecological impact. Our chance of restoring the lakes depends on how you define ``biological integrity.'' If we mean what we had 200 years ago, our chances are zero.

Invasive species are significant for systems like the Great Lakes and should not be underrated. In Hamilton, where I live, in the last couple months we have had an incident where our beaches were littered with dead ducks, fish-eating birds. The source of the mortality was avian botulism. Avian botulism kills millions of birds in Western Canada, but in the last few years it has been a source of mortality in fish-eating birds in Eastern Canada. We saw it in Lake Erie about five years ago. It was always there off and on, but it has become consistent now and has spread to Lake Ontario. This year it spread to Lake Huron and we are seeing it in the western end of Lake Ontario, where we had not seen it before.

When we try to understand why this is suddenly happening, one thing we have discovered is that as the problem spreads, it is tracking geographically with an invasive species, namely, a little fish called the goby. Wherever the goby shows up, it seems like avian botulism follows. The goby are eating zebra mussels, another invasive species. We do not understand the connections yet or why it is happening. It is starting to look like wherever the goby shows up, we can expect the dead ducks a couple of years later.

I would not discount invasive species; I just cannot give you specific examples for Western rivers. When people start talking about diversions from one system to another, we start to think, ``You will be introducing organisms that should not be there.'' Based on what we have seen in the Great Lakes, we would worry about that in terms of ecology. We put it on the list and if you are interested, I could search for specific examples and communicate them to you. Unfortunately, I do not have any to give you tonight.

Climate change I have mentioned. I would like to now give you some more detailed examples, particularly as it might relate to Western rivers.

Water-borne pathogens are interesting. Sources include agricultural waste, municipal waste water, urban runoff and wildlife. We are very accustomed to thinking of municipal waste water and agricultural waste, particularly manure, as sources of pathogens. Those of us who know what is happening in our municipal sewer systems are aware that urban runoff, particularly the overflows during storms, can be a significant source. In fact, in the Great Lakes it is the most significant source related to beach closures; that is, incidents where the bacteria levels are too high. It is not overflow of the sewage plants, but the bacteria that grow in the storm water system between storms and are flushed out in a storm that end up closing most of the beaches these days.

We have not been accustomed to thinking of wildlife. Although there are cases in Europe of wildlife-contaminated water, we have not been accustomed in Canada to thinking of that. I learned this year that a year ago in the summer, in Lethbridge, there was about a two-week period when a particular organism that causes gastroenteritis, cryptosporidium, occurred in the water. It did not occur with any of the normal signals that we see. There were no bacteria or E. coli with it or something that indicated it would be sewage. If you think of Lethbridge, you would think either cattle or people would be the source of manure. However, when it was analyzed the source was actually the cryptosporidium that we have always associated with skunks.

In addition, in Vancouver they are concerned with deer and bear as the source of cryptosporidium spores in the Capilano reservoir in North Vancouver. This is starting to point out to us something that we never considered before — and it might be significant for Western Canada, where the sources are not as large as the major Eastern Canadian sources. That is, just naturally occurring wildlife can be a source of pathogens. Again, this is information that is emerging. We are trying to develop some new tools based on gene characterization of different species. We have never had the sophistication to analyze genes in order to tell what host organism these things probably came from. In recent years, we have developed those tools, and we are trying to do this with an increasing level of sophistication. On examination it is clear that the situation is not as simple as we thought it was in the past.

This problem of water borne pathogens will grow because of intensive agricultural practices and increasing populations. Due to world travel, we also worry about the introduction of pathogens that we do not normally associate with our geography.

An interesting aspect to do with the BSE crisis in the U.K. some years ago was that those who were trying to handle it discovered that it had already reached out of a certain area before they knew anything about it. In years past you could surround and isolate an area. These days, with air travel people can be in another country before symptoms manifest themselves.

We also worry about new pathogens as well as the old bugaboo, climate change changing the conditions in our rivers to conditions that might be conducive to pathogens we have not been concerned about before. For example, will it ever come to pass that malaria is endemic in Canada? I do not know. However, climate change will cause things that we cannot predict, so we ought to be concerned about that.

In a chapter from the water quality assessment entitled ``Aquatic Pathogens'' you will find our assessment of key science and program needs that are guiding our investments. Each chapter outlines the priorities for our research and the directions that we need to take.

Another contaminant I would draw to your attention is algal toxins. We link those with taste and odour, not because compounds that cause taste and odour are always algal sourced or always toxins, but they often are. Taste and odour problems are produced mainly by algae bacteria, fungi and protozoa in the water, although some come directly from the soil. There is a family of algae, blue-green algae, that produces toxins. We are discovering several other families, but the one most common is called blue-green algae. You would know them as pond scum. These algae happen to be very insensitive to UV light, so if there is plenty of phosphorous around from nutrients, they fix their own nitrogen. They make ammonia by drawing nitrogen out of the air. They can live in habitats, such as prairie dugouts or ponds on golf courses, where other algae cannot live. Under some conditions, these blue-green algae produce toxins that are very toxic. In Israel, for example, there have been deaths of wildlife. In some areas in Western Canada there have been deaths of wildlife and dogs. I have heard of a couple of anecdotal cases of cattle that died when they drank water from ponds.

You may be interested to know that microcystis is one of these species of blue-green algae. We have seen that in Lake Erie for the last few years and, over the last two years, we have been able to measure levels of the microcystin toxin in the raw water in Hamilton harbour. This is of concern to us. The medical officer of health put up signs warning people to keep dogs from drinking the water. It was a bit of an overreaction, but not that much. The microcystin toxins that are produced are liver toxins and can attack the liver. They can also irritate the skin and cause rashes and so on. Many people might be familiar with those conditions which have come from some water sources.

The Chairman: I will be rude and ask you to go past the soup, if I can put it that way. We will come back to you for detail in those respects. Could you jump to the climate variability change and give us a cursory look at those following four issues?

Mr. Carey: I would be happy to do that. I am a scientist, so I tend to keep talking.

The Chairman: I would ordinarily have interrupted anyone else much earlier than I did you, but your presentation is fascinating.

Mr. Carey: With respect to climate change, the two issues we are concerned with are climate variability and climate change itself.

We are saying that climate change will affect source waters in reducing flows in some rivers, reducing the recharge of groundwater, and also altering the water availability in, say, glacier fed rivers. In the eastern slopes of the Rockies, for example, we are seeing higher spring flows and lower summer flows. Altering the seasonal distribution of flow in a river can be quite serious. If we build a dam on that river and completely alter it, then some of the natural flooding that normally would flood lakes in the Athabasca Delta, for example, will not occur.

We are also concerned about climate variability because the models also predict lower annual rainfall, but more storms and, therefore, more peak rainfall. When we talk about climate variability we mean less rainfall overall in many areas, but the rain that does come will fall in intense events, according to these models. You might characterize the problem as: what we will face is too much water and too little water — too much in specific times and too little most of the time.

We are saying that prairie droughts will be more persistent, and climate change may increase floods in duration and severity, which seems likes a paradox, but that is related to the instability of climate rather than the climate itself.

We have characterized for you our take on some water issues for the western regions: Lake Winnipeg, Devil's Lake, Red River Floodway, and St. Mary-Milk River. These are specific issues that we face now. You may be aware of them as much as I am.

The Chairman: We are not, but we will come back to you about those.

Mr. Carey: We have characterized some for the Pacific and Yukon regions as well. That depends on your definition of ``Western Canada.''

There are transboundary water issues related to coalbed methane in the Abottsford aquifer, urbanization and floods, and growing concerns with respect to sustainable fisheries. We have examples of those. The U.S., for example, is taking on Cominco in Trail, B.C. over water pollution related issues in the Colombia River. The U.S. is developing total median daily numbers for contaminants in southern flowing rivers crossing the border, and that could be an issue that we face soon. Managing water levels in Osoyoos Lake is another one.

With respect to emerging water issues, I have talked about many of these. I have not talked about conservation and protection of wetlands, but that is a significant issue, especially from the view of migratory waterfowl. Finally, one issue that has only just come to our attention — I was in Winnipeg for a workshop on it three weeks ago — has to do with acid rain in Western Canada. We are familiar with acid rain in Eastern Canada. We have done a good job of reducing it, although we have not licked it yet. In fact, we will have to do a better job with respect to sulphur dioxide controls in Eastern Canada. You may be aware that the sensitive habitat for acidification is anything with granite as its bedrock, and that means the Canadian Shield and that means northern Manitoba, parts of northern Saskatchewan, right up into the Arctic. We have seen increases in sulphur dioxide emissions from the expansion of the oil sands industry, and we have also started to worry about the emissions from smelters in Thompson and Flin Flon, Manitoba. We are wondering where their emission ends up and if their emissions track north into some of these sensitive areas that we have not yet measured.

The last issue is whether we will ever get serious about efficient use of water reuse and recycling and more sophisticated about how we use it and make it available.

The Chairman: The first three witnesses, of whom you are the first, we have asked to appear before us in order that we may become more familiar with the landscape so that we will know how to better formulate the studies on which we are about to embark.

Your overview is most appropriate.

Senator Cochrane: Thank you so much. Every time I take a sip of water, I think about all these pesticides and everything else, and I do not want to drink it.

I appreciate what you have said, sir, and it is very informative.

I see you have two studies here, ``Threats to Water Availability in Canada'' and ``Threats to Sources of Drinking Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Health in Canada.'' If you were to do another study on water, what would be your focus, first and foremost?

Mr. Carey: Do you mean another broad assessment?

Senator Cochrane: How would you focus this study?

Mr. Carey: I think we are overdue for an assessment of information needs to manage water and how information collected federally might be integrated with what is collected provincially and by the private sector. In general, we have a lot of databases with information in them. They are not very available, and many of them are data rich and information poor. We collect a lot of data, but they do not tell us things we want to know. If I was to do another assessment, I would look at the information side and ask, what is the information we would really like to have, and how might we get it? Are we already collecting data we could use to generate that knowledge, or do we have to change the methods? I would look at the information we collect, its usefulness or lack thereof, and what we need to do to make it as useful as possible. I think we are overdue for such an assessment.

Senator Cochrane: You say the data are available.

Mr. Carey: No.

Senator Cochrane: The data are not available. I noticed that you have so many qualified people within your department. Would they not be probably better qualified to do something like that?

Mr. Carey: Well, they are, yes. They are highly qualified people. They are working on many of these issues that I have mentioned. However, as I have said, in our system in Canada, many of the water managers who actually need the information are in the provinces, and in some cases, municipalities, so it becomes a federal-provincial issue, and we do not have very good integration, with everyone collecting information and putting it into an available system. The data are available. In some cases, you have to write away to people to get them. In some cases, you can get them on the Web. Newfoundland does a good job of making information available, although not all provinces do. I think that is an area I would focus on.

A second area, where I know absolutely we do not have the information we require to manage the water resource, has to do with groundwater — even just finding our major regional aquifers, which ones are used, tapped into, and which are not, and the levels and the quality of water.

The Chairman: Does the Geological Survey of Canada not have a map or atlas of groundwater in Canada?

Mr. Carey: No.

The Chairman: That is stunning.

Mr. Carey: It is not the most desirable situation. We are in talks with them now about how we might do regional assessments of groundwater aquifers that would provide information and prevent overexploitation. You may be aware that in the U.S., a major aquifer called the Ogallala Aquifer is being overexploited at a ferocious rate, and the answer appears to be to just drill deeper and deeper wells and pump more and more of it out. That clearly is not a sustainable situation, particularly in a future that may see climate change impacting on the degree of recharge, which clearly is already inadequate.

Senator Cochrane: Canada's water policy was introduced in 1987.

Mr. Carey: That is correct.

Senator Cochrane: Could you give us an overview of this? Is there a policy framework in place?

Mr. Carey: My colleague will answer.

Ms. Jennifer E. Moore, Director General, Water Policy and Coordination Directorate, Environmental Conservation Service, Environment Canada: The 1987 water policy is still effectively in place. Since then, we have looked at a number of elements of it in terms of implementing strategies like bulk water removal, dealing with science and information needs, which Mr. Carey has gone through, but it has not been updated or reviewed in a comprehensive way since 1987. We have looked at water in broader areas, in terms of ecosystem approaches, but we have not actually reviewed the policy itself.

Senator Cochrane: That is about 20 years ago.

Ms. Moore: Yes.

Senator Cochrane: Is this policy still valid?

Ms. Moore: The water policy itself, and I would be glad to provide copies to the committee, has a number of principles, such as ecosystem approaches, fair pricing of water, need for adequate information and science needs, and I think the principles are still very relevant to much of what we are trying to accomplish through water resource management strategies. The other part of the policy is 23 issue statements that have not been updated since 1987, but the principles and practices around them are still relevant.

Senator Gustafson: My farm is located about where you have the red area on this map, in Southern Saskatchewan. We have the underground Missouri. Is there a connection with the underground flow into North America, say to Arizona, where they are depleting the water levels at a tremendous rate?

Mr. Carey: I do not know the answer to that. I do not know the degree to which aquifers in Saskatchewan are connected to the Ogallala Aquifer. I would not rule it out. I just do not know. You can use the word ``stunning.'' I think our level of knowledge about some of our major aquifers is pitiful, frankly.

It is possible for us to measure things like isotope ratios of atmospheric components and determine the last time that water was in contact with the atmosphere. That may sound very esoteric, but actually, it tells us whether that water is vulnerable to contamination or not. If that water was last in contact with the atmosphere 10,000 years ago, we can be relatively assured that we have not done very much to it. If it was last in contact with the atmosphere 40 years ago, it may be water under the influence of surface practices, and we might not want to use that as a drinking water source. We do not even routinely measure that.

I would say that is one of the areas that would require new science, and it is not a simple assessment of what we know, because I can tell you that what we know is not much and not enough. That is an area where we could really use some new science to answer those questions, and we are not doing it at the moment.

Senator Gustafson: When I was a boy, two of my neighbours had what we called artesian wells. They flowed all the time. They have not flowed for years. I do not know how long it has been. Are you finding that kind of thing happening right across the country?

Mr. Carey: Yes, we are. One of the reasons is climate change, and another is that water came from one of these areas that I called recharge areas. It fell, soaked into the ground, built up some pressure somewhere at a higher elevation, and then came out of the ground. There must have been a kind of sand or gravel pathway under the ground, and it came back out through those wells. If you do not have the recharge, then you will not have the discharge. That is straight fact.

Senator Gustafson: It obviously lost pressure.

Mr. Carey: Yes. Now, in the rural areas, it usually loses pressure because the recharge is not occurring due to climate change. In our urban areas we have paved over our recharge areas. We have done some really strange and not very bright things. We have paved them over and discharged all that surface runoff in sewers to our lakes and rivers, and our groundwater aquifers in urban areas are simply not being recharged. That also happens.

Senator Gustafson: Dr. Carey, I found your presentation very interesting. What, if anything, is being done in terms of discouraging people from overusing water? I will use this example. I went into the new airport in Toronto. In the bathroom they have installed the old type of faucet, where you just run any amount of water you want to wash your hands. It does not click off. I was thinking, when I saw this, that this is a brand-new building, and there does not seem to be any direction via legislation or building permits as to how those things are handled.

Mr. Carey: I am certain you have seen the statistics about Canadians' per-capita use of water, and that we are among the highest per-capita water users in the world.

The fact is that apart from saying that is a generally bad thing to do, it is difficult. Toronto is on the shores of Lake Ontario. People can look out over an immense body of water, so it is hard to convince them that we are short of water and it makes sense to conserve and use it wisely.

We are trying to figure out what message we can use. Clearly, the messages we have used so far have not worked. It may be an economic message; I do not know.

Ms. Moore: Canada is the second highest per-capita user, residentially, of water, twice the European average and factors of 10 beyond most of the developing world. A large majority of our urban areas still do not have meters on their household water supplies. The studies that have been done certainly demonstrate that when you do have meters, you vastly reduce your consumption of water, so there are techniques like that, but we still have a way to go.

Recently, in terms of our federal-provincial structure, through the Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment, ministers have realized that and have active conservation programs under way, at the assessments inventory stage, to try to look at the real challenges. It does come back to examples like the one you have just given, where city building codes do not contain standards that would help us be more efficient and better users of our own water.

Senator Angus: I, too, found it fascinating, and it made me realize right away when preparing with these materials what a complex area we have embarked upon.

I am a little concerned, Mr. Chairman. We had a visit last week from someone you know well, I suspect, Ms. Johanne Gélinas, and she told us that she was in the process of completing an audit on the water issue and cautioned us about the enormity of it.

One of the things she told us that remained with me is that Canada has tremendous tools at its disposal to deal with problems in a variety of different environmental areas, and that we are not using them.

I see two people like you here, from this wonderful institute and with tremendous research and tools that you have developed. I am sensing, even in these few minutes, frustration on your part, too, that resources are not being made available to you to get out and solve these problems. Is that a fair comment?

Mr. Carey: It is a fair comment. Any manager of a scientific facility can tell you things they are not doing and make a plea for bigger budgets. I will not do that.

Senator Angus: I am concerned as a citizen. Senator Banks and I were together when we heard the incredible statement that there is not even a map of groundwater, after all these years and all these advances in technology. Are we wrong to be blown away by this?

Mr. Carey: Do not mistake me. We know of some aquifers and have characterized some, but there is no integrated picture that I am aware of. The reason I will not make a plea for more money is I need to point out that the people of Canada make a significant investment in my institute, namely, $32 million. We can use more, but that is a significant investment; that is not zero. We are proud of all this work we do, but we think we give value for money, and we welcome the auditor coming to check that out. They have said that before with respect to our program.

I am not here to cry poor. We do well by the people of Canada, and we think we give value back. Yes, we could always use more and there are things we are not addressing, but the investment that Canada makes in what we do is not insignificant.

Senator Angus: I was not suggesting that for a moment, nor was I intending in any way to criticize. I might demonstrate a lack of understanding because I am hearing and reading about the problems that are out there, and, of course, as Canadians, we have all become sensitized in the last four or five years by Walkerton and the situation you described in the West. Every day we read another article about pharmaceuticals being in the water supply all around us. I was joking with my friend, Senator Buchanan, he better not drink this water because it could be polluted by Viagra, and he would not be able to sleep tonight.

The Chairman: Or sleep very well.

Senator Angus: We have become aware of it, and we are troubled. As you say, real tragedies have occurred, and maybe this is the simplest question that the uninitiated person like me could ask: Could you list for us the three biggest problems that need to be addressed in the water-related area?

Mr. Carey: I believe in the efficient use of water, and that, frankly, may be privatization. I went to the U.K. last summer, where they privatized their water system, and I did not expect to be impressed. What I saw there was companies suddenly becoming concerned about something they called ``non-billable water'' and taking prevention and leak detection far more seriously than anyone I know of in North America. Once you start charging the appropriate price for it, you start managing it. I was unexpectedly impressed with what I saw.

The other thing that blew me away was that those privatized companies have banded together to establish a research fund, and more money is going into research for things like leak detection and managing the resource than I believe was available before. I did not expect that either.

Senator Angus: Therefore, number one is wastage of the resource.

Mr. Carey: Wastage of the resource — it falls out of the sky. Well, not quite. That is one.

Next is equipping us to be ready to adapt to and understand where climate change will affect us from an impact and adaptation side. The climate change issue is focused on mitigation, what we will do to stop it and things like that.

I know that this will be confusing, but I use an analogy to the Kennedy assassination. After the Kennedy assassination, there were teams that tried to reproduce it. They went out and tried the two-bullet and three-bullet theories, and tried to bounce bullets of the curbs to see if they could make it work. None of them managed it. However, in the end, despite the fact that they could not prove how it happened, the man is still dead. While we argue about the degree to which mankind is influencing the climate, the fact is if you look at regional trends in Canada, climate is changing. Aquifers and springs are disappearing, and there are the seasonal patterns. Why are we arguing over whether we are causing that or not to the extent that we are, and not getting ready to consider where it will hit us? If this trend continues, are we ready? If we suddenly have bigger floods in cities, do we have the infrastructure to help us to deal with that?

Senator Angus: Number two is recognition that there is a problem.

Mr. Carey: Impacts and adaptation to climate change with respect to water is my second issue.

The third issue is trying to develop some sophistication with respect to what contaminants are real risks and what are curiosities, and how we develop some sort of scheme. Otherwise, we will drive ourselves crazy. I am a chemist. I can tell you that we sometimes joke about the quantities we can detect and call them ``ghostagrams'' because they are very small. However, as soon as we see them, people start worrying about whether they are having an impact or not. I wonder how we can tell people how small one part per quadrillion really is.

Senator Angus: We are being conditioned in this committee to recognize that it is scientists like yourself that we must listen to. You, not economists, have measured and studied the situation. This latest weekend debate between business writer Corcoran in the National Post and Dr. Schindler is to the effect that, as a scientist he knows about climate change and about global warming, but that he is in the pocket of the big oil companies and so he should shut up.

We are charged with the responsibility of trying to sensitize the Canadian people to these issues that you and people like Dr. Schindler have scientifically determined to be diminishing the quality of our planet and the lives of our children and grandchildren. Your presentation has been very helpful to us. I hope you will forgive us for appearing perhaps, as we say in the Quebec, a little naive on the subject because we are, but we do care. We want to learn from you.

Senator Adams: Thank you for coming to the committee. I live in Nunavut. You say that some places are getting warmer and some places are getting colder. What part of that is due to climate change? I have lived in Nunavut for most of my life and the elders and myself have noticed changes in the climate. It is not the same as it was 20 to 30 years ago.

Mr. Carey: I wish I could be more specific. I can certainly come back with more specific areas.

I believe that the northeast of the Arctic is an area that is projected to get colder. In conversation with Germans from the German geological survey I was told that it was there intention to measure permafrost disappearance in the northeast and that they discovered that it was not, in fact, disappearing there. If anything it was getting cooler. That area was projected to get cooler as opposed to the higher Arctic and in the central area of the country, which I believe is projected to get alarmingly warmer, if I am not mistaken.

I am not an expert in that particular area. We have those projections and I can get them for you.

Senator Adams: Scientists, such as those in DFO who study mammals and, in particular, polar bears, are telling us that climate change in happening in the North They are saying that the sea ice is now freezing in November instead of October. Last year, in Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, the sea ice in Frobisher Bay did not form until after Christmas.

I remember when we would go out on the land near Rankin Inlet, in storm conditions, the wind would be no more than 60 kilometres an hour. Now it is not uncommon to have winds that are over 100 kilometres an hour in that area. In fact, a couple of months ago the wind in Rankin registered up to 140 kilometres per hour. That is the situation we are dealing with, especially during freeze-up, that is, in the fall.

In the North, we are now we are seeing unfamiliar things while hunting. In the past we knew exactly how to tell the difference between the sea ice and frozen fresh water. Now it is difficult to tell when the ice has formed over fresh water. In fact, some people thought the rivers had been frozen solid, as they would have been in the past at this time of year, and they went through the ice and drowned. Conditions are especially dangerous now before the freeze-up when we have heavy snowfalls and the snow covers very thin ice. The ice might appear to be thick, but it is very thin for this time of the year and that has resulted in people being confused and going through the ice.

It is clear that conditions have changed, and I particularly mention the increased strength of the wind.

As you know, DFO has expressed concerns about what will happen to mammal and animal life in the Arctic in the future with the threat of global warming. Arctic councils such as the circumpolar council are holding meetings in order to try to understand the situation. As you know, the circumpolar council is made up of people who live inside and close to the Arctic Circle all over the world. In fact, about a month ago, they issued a report on climate change.

I would like to thank you for the good information you brought to us this evening about the water systems across Canada.

Mr. Carey: I do not have a lot of information on Nunavut. In my opinion, there is a wide body of knowledge up there that we are not tapping into. I refer to the traditional knowledge as to what is changing and current trends. If we systematically collected that information it might tell us a lot that we do not know.

Senator Adams: I also want to mention that around first week of October we had a major rain storm around Rankin which is unusual for that time of the year. I was out hunting and then and all the rivers on my trail were dried up after the summer. On my return trip, which was two days later, there was three feet of water in the river. I have never seen that happen before. We are noticing those kinds of changes.

Mr. Carey: In a climate as cold as ours it may seem strange to tell people that a couple degrees warmer in January is a bad thing. We used to complain about the fact that they did not seem to understand what that meant. We are talking about changes in the water cycle. More recently, based on the models that we have and climate variability, as well as the fact that we are not focusing on the fact that there appear to be more major storms, that may come back on us and bite us, so to speak.

Senator Spivak: This may not be a fair question, but I will ask it anyway. You mentioned the effluent from pulp mills. I happened to be around when pulp mill effluent was threatening fish life and when legislation had to be implemented before changes happened. The other situation I recall is the depletion of the ozone layer. That was seen to be a major crisis so governments acted quickly on that.

Now we are dealing with water and it seems to me that everyone is very complacent about it. While we do not have a detailed regional analysis, we do know that, if we adopted a no-regrets policy, that is, if we eliminated certain substances that go into the water, we would have cleaner water.

What is your opinion as to whether it will take a real crisis to address the ozone layer issue? It would seem practical to have legislation. Addressing this situation will not happen voluntarily.

Senator Angus asked which area we should study. Do you think we might best spend our time considering what kind of legislation might work. I must say that I do not know whether the jurisdiction provincial or federal. Should we look the effect of industrial pollutants or, say, farm runoff?

Mr. Carey: In terms of non-point sources of contaminants, such as agricultural sources of nutrients, that is an area — although you would have to determine whether is it provincial or federal — where I do not think we have adequate legislation in place. That is one area you might want to consider with respect to legislation.

I do not know how we can achieve better waste water treatment. I do not know how we can encourage that. It may have to be done through legislation.

Senator Spivak: I know that there are no longer toilets that flush waste water. The Americans made that change about 20 years ago.

I think that industrial standards should be studied. We may also want to look at the use of refrigerators and the design of showerheads.

Canadians are beginning to be aware of these problems. It is not so much a question of delineating the problem but, rather, a question of the will to act and then deciding what action should be taken.

You mentioned non-point sources. Is there another area where we might advocate for legislation?

Mr. Carey: Areas I would like to see us improve include the control of non-point sources of contaminants and improved waste water treatment. I have a perception — and I cannot prove it because I have not studied it, so I am giving you a personal opinion — that we believe, with respect to our drinking water treatment, that using some of the more modern methods of treatment would cost us so much more. However, I think that drinking water providers spend more money fixing leaks in the distribution system than they do in the actual treatment of the water. If we looked at how much it cost to chlorinate water, for example, as opposed to deliver it and maintain it in the system, I am sure we would find that we could do more sophisticated water treatment with a minimal increase in cost. However, this is a personal opinion. I do not know that.

Senator Spivak: That is an area to look into.

Mr. Carey: I think it is.

Senator Spivak: In Manitoba we have the ideal system. We have a gravity flow system from the Shoal Lake aqueduct which works beautifully. Another aqueduct was to be built, but that did not happen. We now have reservoirs of water which have to be treated.

Senator Christensen: Thank you for your excellent presentation. It takes my mind back to the good old days when those of us who did not have running water had a bath every Monday night and when we were finished the next person climbed in.

I recognize that much of what you are talking about here is preventable.

The cost of remedying what we are doing to our waters boggles the mind. I think of the salt that is poured on to the streets to stop our cars from slipping. Where does that salt end up? It goes down the drains and into our water systems, aquifers and lakes and we end up drinking it. We are not a very bright race.

I am specifically interested, though, in the two transboundary issues that you have highlighted here related to the St. Mary River and the Milk River in Alberta. One of the reasons this has come to light now is that global warming is causing glaciers to melt. There is also reduced snow cover and the lack of good irrigation systems throughout Montana. By contrast, Alberta and Saskatchewan have good irrigation systems. Would you comment on those two particular transboundary issues because I think we will hear more about those.

Mr. Carey: I think you will. However, I am a scientist. The Devil's Lake situation involves concerns about diversion and invasive species. The other situation has to do with an old agreement on sharing rivers and the American perception that the agreement is not being honoured. It is not a scientific issue. Perhaps my colleague would address that.

Senator Christensen: That perception has only been raised in the last number of years, has it not?

Mr. Carey: The drought has brought it to the fore.

Senator Christensen: The lack of charging above has been reduced.

Ms. Moore: The St. Mary's River and the Milk River issue is interesting because it has to do with the boundary waters treaty, the boards of control, and about how much water is to be apportioned to watersheds on each side of the border. There are orders in place to deal with those items. In this case, the Governor of Montana appealed to the commissioners of the International Joint Commission saying that treaty required review.

There is now a public consultation period on both sides of the border. The International Joint Commission has been engaged, along with the provinces, to look at this. This treaty has been in place for 40 to 50 years and, yet, through opening up the process it is possible to review it.

There has only been one instance of this to date as it relates to the St. Mary's River and the Milk River, but with climate change and this type of activity could probably happen more frequently. We need to look at the governance mechanisms. We do have a boundary waters treaty and an International Joint Commission. A number of boards consider issues to do with how much water is allocated to regions' users.

The Columbia treaty will be up for review, and the Great Lakes water quality agreement comes up for periodic reviews. Those reviews have to do with boundary and transboundary waters and what governance and allocation mechanisms are in place.

Senator Christensen: In regard to water issues for the Pacific and Yukon regions and the mining development in the northern B.C.-Yukon region, is that a specific or a general area that you consider?

Mr. Carey: The Telkwa River.

Senator Christensen: Is it the opening up of that particular area that is the concern or particularly the Telkwa River itself?

Mr. Carey: The reason it is in the list is because of a concern on the part of Alaskans, because there is the contamination of the Telkwa River by the mine, or the potential for it.

The Telkwa is unique in that it has a major glacier at its head which has a lake behind it. That lake floods at the same time, almost to the day, every year as the lake lifts the glacier and the water rushes out. Then the glacier drops down and closes it off and flushes the whole system. With global warming, I imagine that glacier will shrink more and more and the flushing system will not work as well as it does now.

Senator Christensen: What about Devil's Lake, though, from a scientific point of view?

Mr. Carey: I do not have much more to add to what I have said. The concern there is trans-basin transfer.

Senator Christensen: Do you know what is happening with that? It is my understanding that in fact they are digging the ditches. It is going ahead. What about treaties?

Ms. Moore: It is a long-standing issue, as you well know. There have been many, démarches made by our colleagues in Foreign Affairs and many political discussions between Canada and the United States. Construction is going on, with the pipe starting to be built. At the same time, there are a number of activities between our Foreign Affairs colleagues and the Province of Manitoba. It is something that is looked at, but we are increasingly concerned about it.

One possible strategy that we have been looking at, which we have not yet been able to get the United States to agree to, is to give the International Joint Commission a reference that would say, ``We feel this is a very important area. We need to have your expert advice as to how to manage the situation.'' However, construction is going on.

Senator Christensen: You are introducing a whole new ecosystem into a northern climate, which goes all the way down to James Bay and Hudson Bay.

Ms. Moore: The main concern is that it does cross the continental divide, so that raises concerns about invasive species.

Mr. Carey: You are diverting from the Missouri basin to the Hudson Bay drainage basin.

Ms. Moore: It is a long-standing challenge.

Senator Christensen: Thank you very much.

The Chairman: I have several questions before we adjourn.

The most interesting thing that I heard you say tonight, and I think is useful to us, is that with respect to water and the problems that derive from all of the things you are talking about, the question of why it is happening is not even remotely important. It does not even count. The fact is that it is happening and that is what we have to deal with. Working back, we might find out why it is happening, but the fact is that it is happening and we have to deal with it.

You were asked a question in different forms first by Senator Cochrane, then by Senator Angus and then by Senator Spivak. I will put the same question in a different way.

We have determined that the question of water is so large that we will break it into very small chunks, going at, as you have heard, western water first and then eastern water. We will look at the Great Lakes and other areas later. Even within those divisions we will look at the water question in small, digestible chunks so that whatever we have to say in our reports is confined to a particular issue or a particular area.

If you thought in the end we would have an effect on public policy in Canada, and given your interest in the subject, what would you like to see us do?

Mr. Carey: You put me on the spot, Mr. Chairman.

Most of the things that I have talked about are scientific issues. One reason they are issues is because we take things for granted. We take water for granted, as I said. We seem to have the perception that it falls out of the sky and it should be free, and it is not something that we need to manage the same way we would manage a budget, and yet, of course, it is.

You are really asking me to judge the degree to which, if you were to address that issue, you could change public perception and the way we as a society handle that issue. I am not sure the degree to which you would take that on and I am not sure what I would say you could do to address that, but that is a key issue.

The Chairman: Is the most important thing to change the public perception: that it does not fall from the sky, there is a cost to this and we are not paying the right cost?

Mr. Carey: I believe it is one of the most important things, yes.

I am well aware of the minefield. There are governance issues with respect to water in Canada and the level that it is regulated and the degree to which we can have national standards. I said I was impressed by the U.K. system but, frankly, they have a single level of government there and can do some things that are more difficult for us.

I do not have a solution or even a vision of what can be done. I like our country, but sometimes we get into some long discussions about things that seem pretty self-evident.

The Chairman: Maybe we should make Canada into a unitary state.

Mr. Carey: I said I was well aware of the minefield, and I will certainly not comment on that, Mr. Chairman.

The Chairman: What you just said was consistent with what you said earlier, that the main question, when it comes down to it, has to do with conservation and efficient use. Those two things, as others have said, would go a long way toward at least staving off, if not solving, the apocalyptic part of the problem. Is that right?

Mr. Carey: I believe that if we could appreciate the value of the resource and somehow get people to pay what it really costs us to protect it, they would then appreciate it and we would have conservation and efficient use.

The Chairman: It is interesting that tomorrow we will table a report that says exactly that with respect to another kind of resource.

Senator Lavigne: Mr. Carey, I was impressed by your presentation. I know you are looking at water like a man who likes the job that he is doing, because we can feel it.

[Translation]

As you know, I am from Quebec. Quebec is home to vast water resources and as a result, we tend to take our water resources for granted. You are quite right to say that we should be requiring manufacturers to install water meters to get them to realize just how much water they are actually wasting.

A bill respecting personal watercraft and boats that pollute our waters has been introduced. People's lives are so hectic these days that they often forget to appreciate the beauty of their surroundings.

During the last referendum campaign on Quebec independence, many people decided to join in a last-minute rally in support of Canadian unity. We are witnessing a similar phenomenon when it comes to water conservation. Everyone here at this table is wondering what needs to be done to stop the waste and the pollution of this precious resource.

For many years now, pulp and paper mills have been discharging pollutants into the St. Lawrence and into other waterways. While some steps have been taken to stem this harmful practice, it is still going on today. When caught discharging waste, the responsible parties are fined, naturally.

As senators, it is critically important for us to focus on this problem and try to help you find some solutions.

I sat as an M.P. in the House of Commons for 10 years. As an elected member, it is difficult to point fingers, because of the negative impact this could have on a future election campaign. However, senators face no such dilemma. We can turn our attention to the problems that exist in Canada and we can do so with fewer restrictions. It is very important for us to help you find solutions to the problems that you have identified. One solution, for example, would be to require companies to install water meters.

An elected member must bow somewhat to the will of the people and corporations that helped get him elected. An initiative such as requiring companies to install water meters would certainly be unpopular and this discontent could be evident in more ways than one during an election campaign.

The situation is entirely different in the Senate. The political process is not linked to the financing of any future election campaign. Senators are therefore free and more independent, in terms of the decisions they make and the views they hold. I want to congratulate you on doing an excellent job.

[English]

The Chairman: You learn fast, Senator Lavigne.

Thank you very much for getting us off to what I believe is a more than useful, auspicious start to our deliberations.

I can almost promise you, Mr. Carey, and I do not know how helpful I can be, that we will try to have you come back to us.

Senator Spivak: Would you be willing to answer, in a written format, any of the questions our staff people prepared for us that we did not raise?

The Chairman: Thank you, senator. Would you entertain that, Mr. Carey?

Mr. Carey: We would be happy to do that.

The Chairman: If you would send the answers to the clerk of the committee, we would appreciate it.

Thank you very much.

The committee adjourned.