Monday, October 11, 2010

Alaska to begin exporting water

By Duncan Geere

Water from a lake in Alaska is set to be pumped into ships, bottled in Mumbai, then sent to arid cities in the Middle East, in a commercial scheme that attempts to rectify some of the inequalities inflicted by the beginnings of climate change.

There's trillions of litres of water in a three mile-long reservoir near a town called Sitka in the archipelago off the western coast of Canada. It's named Blue Lake, and fewer than 9,000 people live nearby, meaning that there's very little local pressure on the water supply.

The water in the lake is pure enough to drink without any treatment, and a local bottling business has for some time siphoned small quantities out for thirsty people around North America. But a new deal with Texas company S2C Global Systems could see far greater amounts extracted for a much larger-scale operation.

S2C's plan is to siphon off 10.9 billion litres of water -- enough to meet the needs of a city of 500,000 -- each year from the reservoir, which will then be pumped into a tanker and sent to a port south of Mumbai on the west coast of India. There, it'll be bottled and distributed around the region for profit, including to a port in Iraq.

If the company can pull it off, then it'll be the first successful attempt to export water in large volumes by ship. Previous attempts have floundered due to logistics, worries about the sovereignty of natural resources, and cheaper sources being available locally. However, with the increasing aridity of the Middle East, it's possible that S2C may have found the sweet spot.

There's been political opposition in Canada to plans to export water, but the Alaskan locals aren't worried about losing their supply. The mayor of Sitka, Scott McAdams, told Circle of Blue: "There’s not a lot of opposition to it. In this borough we have 8,600 people, but we have a renewable resource of water that could meet the needs of a metropolitan area. We do have excess water."

Perhaps that's because of how lucrative the deal could be. It's thought that the city could earn more than £16 million per year if S2C exports its entire allocation of water. Plus, with mid-latitudes predicted to get wetter as the effects of climate change take hold, it could be a very profitable business for the future.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if the Sitka Conservation Society and Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) caved on this.