Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hydraulic fracturing and shale gas leaks in Québec: New science shed light on the «cow farts» leaks


Just a quick post to follow up on reports relating to shale gas leaks from wells in Québec.

The Québec Ministry for Natural Resources and Wildlife, Nathalie Normandeau, has recently described gas leaks from fracking exploration wells as negligible by likening them to cow farts. Thankfully, less clownish politicians have taken a more cautious approach on the issue since then (article here by Robert Dutrisac and Louis-Gilles Francoeur, Le Devoir, 22 January 2011 - in French).

Now, Andrew Revkin from Dot Earth in the New York Times points to interesting scientific developments (blog post here):

- Abrahm Lustgarten, «Climate Benefits of Natural Gas May Be Overstated», 25 January 2011, Propublica;

- Robert Howarth, «Preliminary Assessment of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Natural Gas Obtanied by Hydraulic Fracturing», Departement of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University.

All well worth a read, and it supports the work done by Nature Québec (as reported here by Louis-Gilles Francoeur, Le Devoir, 19 January 2011 - both in French). Hopefully, these inputs will be considered by the BAPE.

Follow-up on the sleeping giant in Québec water case law 12


In a previous blog post, a recourse by aboriginal communities on the North Shore of the St. Lawrence River against Hydro-Québec as well as the federal and provincial governments was mentioned as potentially very interesting - and one to follow-up on...

Apparently, it might just end there. CBC reports (in French) that Hydro-Québec could pay CDN$ 125 M to the First Nations in pre-trial settlement of the claim.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dundee UNESCO Centre for Water Law Symposium


On 20-24 June 2011, the Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science, University of Dundee, will hold a Symposium on National Water Law: Managing Global Water Resources.

The Symposium will «focus on water resources, rather than the delivery of services, and will take a comparative approach, drawing on experience from different jurisdictions. Best practice will be highlighted based on approaches that have successfuly tackled universal problems.»

Additional information on programme and registration can be found here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

COGESAF Forum on stormwater management in urban area


On 23-25 October 2011, the Saint-Francois Watershed Steering Committee (COGESAF), in partnership with Sherbrooke University and Sherbrooke City, will organize the second edition of International Forum on Integrated Water management on "Stormwater management in urban area".

The Forum «aims to increase the global knowledge on stormwater management in urban areas to all the actors in Quebec, Canada and around the world. Furthermore, an added value will come from the presence of internationally renowned experts wishing to share their advanced research and positive experiences about the development and implementation tools for a better control of stormwater

Theme 1 «Governance, strategy development and territorial planning» notably focuses on legal instrument and governance tools for sustainable stormwater management.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Drinking water fluoride content level to be lowered in the U.S.A.?


In the U.S.A., current public health guidelines call for drinking water fluoride levels between 0.7 milligrams per liter and 1.2 milligrams per liter.

However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (H.H.S) now recommends that fluoridation be pegged at 0.7 milligrams, the bottom level of the current guidelines' range. Moreover, on 7 January 2011, the U.S. E.P.A. and the H.H.S., announced that they would review the guidelines to ensure maximal health protection (see E.P.A.'s website for background sources).

One of the issues appears to be the possible adverse health impact of cumulative fluoride ingestion from other sources than drinking water (toothpaste, processed food with high fluoride content due to traces of pesticides, etc).

In Québec, optimal drinking water fluoride levels are set at 0.7 milligrams per liter under the Regulation prescribing the optimum fluoride concentration to prevent tooth decay. One eye should be kept on developments South of the border in the event that the E.P.A. review detemines that a lower fluoride concentration is more protective of public health.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New water law blog


Just a quick post to highlight the creation of a new info source on water law with a focus on the neighbouring New York State, the New York Water Law Blog by Rachel Treichler.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

CWRJ Issue on the Hydrogeology of the Châteauguay River Watershed


The Canadian Water Resources Journal has published a special issue on the Hydrogeology of the transboundary Châteauguay River Watershed (2543 km2, 57% in Québec and 43% in New York - 100 000 (or 250 000 depending on the text in the issue) inhabitants on the Canadian side with 20 000 domestic wells, overall dependant on groundwater for 67% of total water use). This is a mostly unconfined or semi-confined aquifer system with northwards groundwater flows that discharge in the St-Lawrence River (see Lavigne, Natsev and Lefebvre, Numerical Simulation of Groundwater Flow in the Châteauguay River Aquifers, p.469 & ff.), making the U.S.A. portion of the aquifer system part of an international watercourse as defined by article 2 of the 1997 UN Convention on non-navigational water uses.

The CWRJ special issue presents the principal results of a large scale project conducted from 2003 to 2007 by a variety of participants on both sides of the border. This is only the 3rd aquifer system mapped in details in Québec. However, it is reported that the success of this project has led to the launch of the current provincial groundwater mapping programme under which five major studies (in la Mauricie, Centre-du-Québec, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Abitibi-Témiscamingue and Montérégie-Est) are expected to be completed in 2013.

In addition to the wealth of hard scientific information on the Châteauguay watershed, the special issue includes an article exploring groundwater allocation on the Québec side of the watershed from a social science perspective: Marie-Pierre Dagenais, Analyse Sociologique de l'Allocation de l'Eau Souterraine: L'Exemple de Franklin, Québec, p.543 & ff (in French). The events studied by Dagenais' article relate to commercial bottling projects on a municipal territory in an agricultural zone.

The article shows that municipal residents mobilised together with farmers against the bottling projects due to the possibility of water shortage resulting from increased withdrawal. Lack of reliable information and institutional capacity played a significant part in the escalation of the social conflict from the civil society's perspective. At the same time appeared an asymmetrical relationship where administrative authorities at provincial level favoured direct, bilateral and private information sharing with the bottling project promoters to the exclusion of other stakeholders. It seems that the opacity of the institutions for groundwater allocation, as well as the fragmented skein of applicable laws and regulations played a part in the development of the conflict resulting from the bottling projects (the tail end of the ensuing judicial saga was discussed in an older post).

Regulation on charges payable for the use of water in force


As announced by the Québec Ministry for Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks, the Regulation respecting the charges payable for the use of water published in the Gazette Officielle on 15 December 2010 has come into force 15 days after its publication.

Some of the significant features of Regulation were mentioned in a previous post. Some amendments to previous draft versions of the Regulation are as follows:

- Contrary to earlier versions, the manufacturing of canned, dried or marinated fruits and vegetables will finally not be subjected to the higher tariff (see section 5);

- Contrary to earlier versions, the higher tariff will only be applied to activities that incorporate water in the final product (section 5). This measure can be linked to the virtual water and water trade discussion. In a fall 2010 report on Freshwater Supply and Demand in Canada, Statistics Canada concluded that:

«More water is embedded in forest products than food. When precipitation was included, the production of exported lumber, wood pulp, paper, and other forest products required seven times more water than the production of exported agricultural commodities.» (p.6)

Wood and paper products are subjected to the Regulation (see section 3 and Schedule) but not to the higher tariff.

- The fines for contraventions to the Regulation are increased.

The first charges are due on 31 March 2012.