Watch For the Rising Water

Lately, it has been hard to find anything worth getting excited about. Gold is still getting hammered, oil isn’t doing anything spectacular, and small caps are–how shall I put it–dead asleep. And, then it hit me. What resource do Canadians have, aside from gold and oil, that is essential and in short supply? The answer was crystal clear–water! Imagine that, just water!

There are a few interesting things about Canada’s water. We have it in abundance, and Americans are running short of it. Yet, we still do not export it in bulk, but rather in plastic bottles with expensive and silly little labels on them. (Though, I have to agree, being seen with a plastic bottle looks so much more posh than drinking from a tap.)

But, if Canadians could get their act together and export water in bulk, trade it on a commodity exchange as gold or pork bellies, we could cry ourselves a river of money.

If anyone is wondering about costs of bulk water exports, well, a pipeline from Manitoba going straight down to Texas could cost between $4.0 billion and $9.0 billion. This is nothing too spectacular and would pay itself two times over by the time the first drop gets to Texas. One more coincidence, the former American ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci, recently commented that trading bulk water on a commodity exchange would be a good idea.

The best part about Canada’s water is that there is nothing much going on there. Aside from an agreement with Americans that water from the Great Lakes is not to be diverted for commercial purposes, there are currently no plans to exploit water as a commodity. However, things may change in the near term.

As with any commodity, there are always camps on opposite sides of the spectrum, and I’m not even including environmental issues concerning whether Canada even has enough water. But, let’s focus for a moment on the anti-water exports camp. For starters, you will find in it Canadian auto industry and Alberta’s oil sands companies, which depend on healthy supplies of Canada’s cheap water. God forbid if water would suddenly become a tradable commodity and Canadian manufacturers had to bid for it in international markets.

But, if done right, if Canada could structure a NAFTA agreement that would take care of our own first, and then export the rest for good money, we could have one more resource in our back yards worth its weight in gold.