The last great water fight for the Mackenzie River

While reading Courrier International one article on the MacKenzie river recently caught my attention. It was first published by The Walrus, a Canadian magazine published by a non-profit charitable foundation. Here is an extract :

” the Mackenzie River empties a watershed nearly the size of Western Europe into the Arctic Ocean. Draining half of Alberta and most of the Northwest Territories, (…) the Mackenzie is one of the world’s great water arteries.

This huge river is being heavily exploited by the oil industry, and this poses a threat of global importance to climate change. See why.

Here are more extracts of the full article :

More than half of Canada’s petroleum comes from the Mackenzie watershed. But for every barrel of crude extracted from the oil sands in its southeastern reaches, three more of water are pumped from rivers that flow into the Mackenzie. Projects under construction, licensed, or pending approval would more than triple Alberta’s oil production;

The Mackenzie, moreover, anchors a mega-ecology on the scale of the Amazon or the Congo. Beyond harm to wildlife, its alteration could topple climate dominoes across the continent and perhaps beyond. The river’s health influences the boreal forest that follows it all the way to the Arctic Ocean: nowhere else in North America do trees grow so far north, a measure of the heat its waters transport.

And scientists are just beginning to get a sense of its influence on the sea itself. “We don’t know what we’re doing to the Arctic Ocean [when we alter the headwaters of the Mackenzie],” admits John Pomeroy, an Arctic climatologist and a Canada Research Chair at the University of Saskatchewan, “but we’re definitely twiddling the knobs.”

That’s one danger we’re courting on the Big River. The second relates to the fact that the Mackenzie is upwind from the rest of Canada. Water transpired by its forests crosses the country to rain on Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. “If we lose tree cover and evaporation, we’ve lost water available to the rest of the continent,” Pomeroy warns.

And that is happening. As much as a third of the black spruce forest has been lost in some areas to swamp, as rising temperatures melt permafrost plateaus that once rooted trees. “It’s a wholesale change, affecting everything around it,” he says.

If you have a lot of time, I strongly recommend you reading the full five pages of the article…

Here is a map from Courrier International [Fr] which clearly illustrates the importance of the Mackenzie :

This really makes me thinks : There are many alternatives to oil, but there is absolutely no alternative to water. Oil isn’t essential at all, water is. I would even say that it is water that constitutes for a majority of our own bodies, not oil.

This is high time Canada stops this environmental nightmare. I believe the country could earn more money and create more jobs by investing in low carbon electricity sources, mass transportation and electric vehicles.

I look forward to reading your opinion on that matter.

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