Do you sit back and laugh at her misfortune, even suggest - rather snidely - that if she wants a glass of water badly enough, she'll just move in with you to get one?
Or do you offer to share a glass of water from your place? Better yet, she'll even offer you a quarter for your troubles if you do.
Which action do you take
Whether Manitobans and Manitoban politicians want to debate water exports or not, the debate is coming at us rapidly and everyone would be better served if our leaders actually did some research and thinking on the subject rather than offer knee-jerk jingoistic reactions to the issue.
The American south is going to require drinking water. This is a fact. Before slapping their overtures to purchase what are small amounts of the annual run off, ask yourself first, what solution would you propose?
Considering all the Canadians making their lives down there during portions of the year or through permanent relocation, it is a little disingenuous to argue that Canada does not have a responsibility to help with the solutions.
And before you put too much stock in Water Stewardship Minister Christine Melnick's, "Any time you tamper with the natural flow of water, with water levels, you affect the life cycles of the fish and wildlife dependent on that water," you better ask yourself where you stand on the Floodway. Or Manitoba Hydro's legal mandate to regulate the water levels of Lake Winnipeg*, both of which "tamper with the natural flow of water" last time I checked.
In a previous employment life, I worked for Manitoba Conservation in the Water Rights Licencing branch. A fun and interesting job, I spent a goodly portion of my days out visiting all the drainage ditches - legal and illegal - that Manitobans had dug into the natural landscape. Over time, Manitoba has spent billions digging better trenching, better ditches and now better floodways, all in the name of removing the spring runoff as quickly as possible and there is nothing natural about that process. Water that used to take weeks or even months to leave the land and enter our waterways now gets there days after the thaw.
In short, we have already been making fundamental changes to the water flow patterns of the province and have been doing so since the very first time land was cleared for agriculture or settlement. This is an undeniable fact.
Which returns us to the original question at hand....Should we consider bulk water sales to the United States (and possibly Alberta or Saskatchewan)?
I've been thinking about this one for a few years since a Macleans article opened my eyes about some of the pressing issues at hand. After thinking about it, I cannot imagine we wouldn't want to even consider the option and wouldn't want to investigate it further. And not just from an economic position - though that certainly would be a tremendous positive of the sales.
No, there is also a humanitarian angle that must be considered. People need water. The places where people - where Canadians - are moving do not have large supplies of the resource. We do.
Are we really prepared to withhold that glass of water?
* - I've seen charts showing the natural levels of Lake Winnipeg pre-Hydro regulation and you see large swings up in wet years and large swings downward in dry years. Been theorizing for awhile that it is possible that the nutrient overloading is exasperated by the fact we no longer allow the lake to naturally "flush" itself every decade or so.