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Inter-Basin Water Transfer and Its Role in Modern Society

  • Date Submitted: 06/06/2012 11:27 AM
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INTER-BASIN WATER TRANSFER AND ITS ROLE IN MODERN SOCIETY: A NON-TECHNICAL AND TECHNICAL REVIEW

by Simon Dagher

Department of Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics McGill University, Montreal

June, 2012

A 15-CREDIT PROJECT SUBMITTED TO MCGILL UNIVERSITY IN PARTIAL FULLFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ENGINEERING

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ABSTRACT
Inter-basin water transfer (IBWT) is the practice of moving or exporting bulk water volumes between adjacent or distant water-basins. It is currently being applied to hydroelectric projects, irrigation schemes and for municipal water supply. There is concern that IBWT projects may increase in magnitude in terms of scale and importance, to the point where entire States or regions may depend on them. The issue from a philosophical perspective addresses the commoditization of water in the context of IBWT. The historical, legal, economic, institutional and political discussion addresses the difficulties that Canadian governments face to effectively protect their fresh water resources from export. Three IBWT case studies are explored. A feasibility study of potential IBWT projects is undertaken from an engineering perspective. Canadian water resources are scrutinized to identify potential water extraction locations. Three proposals are described and studied: 1) exporting water using pressurized pipelines into the water-stressed Ogallala aquifer of the Southern-States, 2) reversing river flows to supplement the Great Lakes Basin, and 3) using trans-oceanic water tankers for fresh water export. Each proposal is rated depending on their potential environmental impacts (hydrologic disruptions, greenhouse emissions), social impacts, and by their potential costs and benefits. It was found that the pipeline proposal was the most beneficial of the three options, yet all three would be neither economically nor environmentally feasible.

Key Words: Inter-basin water transfer, IBWT, water exportation, water...

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