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Source: Nasa, 2012

This is the home of the Canadian Glaciers and their Associated Property Rights space.
Glaciers in Canada are in a rapid decline likely due to climate change expedited by increasing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Canadian glaciers cover approximately 200,000 km2 (http://atlas.nrcan.gc.ca, 2012) and provide a valuable water resource for drinking, agricultural, ecological, industrial, and recreational purposes. The glaciers in Canada are regulated by the Federal and Provincial governments in which park the glaciers are present (national or provincial parks). Harvesting of actual glacier ice within these parks is prohibited. Glacier melt water is under provincial jurisdiction in liquid form when it flows through a particular province. The river water is then used for many purposes throughout the North American glacier fed watersheds. Water bottling companies claim to use "glacier water" in their bottled water products but only use the water that is flowing in the rivers.

If there was a defined property right placed on the glaciers, there could be a possibility to create a revenue stream to sustain the depleting ice reserves. It would be in the best interests of society to create a dollar value (other than the aesthetic and tourism value) to generate profit from a otherwise unsustainable resource. Revenues generated could be used to develop research and development programs and research into prolonging the life time of the ice as entrepreneurs are looking for sustainable forms of revenue. Government regulated quotas could be in place to ensure over-use of the ice would not occur by companies. Products generated from a "research funding" product could perhaps demand a premium price from consumers as they would have the feeling of 'helping to sustain the glaciers'. It is in society's best interest to preserve the glaciers because when their entirety's melt away, fresh water will become increasingly more scarce.

Glacier Locations in Canada:

Source: Atlas Canada, 2012.

For further information visit Canadian Atlas Glaciers.

Property Rights Failure of Glaciers:

Under the current property rights, Federal and Provincial governments, glaciers are protected in National and Provincial parks. In these parks, glaciers are seen as a tourist attraction and currently nothing is being done about managing the amount of ice melting. Glaciers are dynamic, they change size and shape by gains and losses of ice, snow, and other forms of frozen precipitation. Losses or ablation in the forms of melting, evaporation, and calving are not currently being kept in check and the sizes of glaciers throughout Canada are decreasing in mass. Governments generally don’t know how to manage anything and they also don’t want to manage it, this is why under the current property rights nothing has been done about managing losses, only recording the losses and gains over the years. To learn more about the losses visit Trends in Glacier Mass Balance.The current melting of the glaciers is not regulated and that results in major net losses of fresh water reserves, as well, major over abundance of fresh water down stream that is then lost into the sea. The Athabasca Glacier found in the Columbia Icefield of the Canadian Rockies has retreated 1,500m since the late 19th century, the rate of retreat has increased substantially since 1980. This increased rate of retreat followed a period of slow retreat from 1950-1979.Retreat of Glaciers since 1850.

Source: Melting Glaciers, 2012. 

Glaciers can be Categorized as Both a Market Good and a Non-Market Good:

Glaciers and glacial runoff can be valued as both a market good and a non-market good.  The market value of glaciers can be derived from the use of glacial meltwater for various human uses including consumption, industrial purposes, commercial business, and agricultural irrigation.  The market value associated with glaciers can also be derived from the use of glacial meltwater in bottled water, which has a market price.  Lastly, glaciers also have a non-market value in that they are a tourist attraction in many provincial and national parks, which means the value of glaciers can be inferred from the tourism revenue earned by these parks.

                        

Source: Natural Glacial Waters Incorporated (http://)


Source: Government of Saskatchewan: Irrigation Opportunities (http://)

Glacier Tenure and Property Rights:

In terms of the use of glacial meltwater for consumption, industry, commercial business, and irrigation, the tenure of glacier water is publicly held.  The ownership of glaciers in provincial and national parks is also characterized by public tenure.  The property rights associated with glaciers often fall under the broader category of water property rights.  Water property rights are known as riparian rights.  Riparian rights establish ownership and allocate the right to use water flowing in streams and rivers among competing users.  Riparian rights include not only the right to the stream or riverbed, but also the right to the water itself.  Riparian rights were placed under the control of the federal government by the Northwest Irrigation Act of 1894.  Authority over water rights was then transferred to the provinces by an amendment to the Constitution Act in 1938.  This information on riparian rights was gained from The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan.  The federal government has jurisdiction of water resources related to fisheries, navigation, federal lands, and international relations, including responsibility over boundary waters shared with the United States.  However, provincial governments are considered the "owners" of water resources within their boundaries and are responsible for allocating water rights (Environment Canada: Water Governance and Legislation (http://)).

The property rights of glaciers and glacial meltwaters can be characterized as follows:

1. Exclusivity- Water rights are exclusive to the person or organization that is granted the water usage license

2. Transferability- Water rights cannot be bought or sold in the market.  They are allocated by government.

3. Enforceability- Due to the spread out geographic nature of water resources, it is difficult to ensure that licensed water users are only using their allocated amount and it is also hard to prevent those without water rights from accessing and using the resource

4. Divisibility- Water rights cannot be divided by the license holder.

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11 Comments

  1. i think i fixed it so people can comment now

  2. Hey right on, we can comment now. How about adding a picture?

  3. What happens if these glaciers are left up to the free market?

  4. I love Glacier Fresh Kokanee. 

  5. do you think there would be any externalities associated with a free market for Glaciers?

  6. Excellent question Bryce. The externality associated with this resource is actually what is creating a potential business opportunity. The fact of the glaciers melting at an increasing rate is what is going to provide more incentives to a market system to implement measures to maintain the longevity of the glaciers. This in turn could benefit everyone as glaciers provide a substantial amount of water to North America and we would be hooped without them. 

    Jason- thank you for that insightful comment.

    Peter - Free market would be the most beneficial for the glaciers (with some government regulations). It would promote the sustainability  of this finite and diminishing resource as people could profit from long term sales of goods (water, tourism, scientific exploration etc.)

  7. Looks great and very informative. With changes to green house gas emissions and countries trying to decrease their emissions, do you think the glaciers will advance again after retreating to a certain point or will the glaciers just disappear? 

    1. Depending on how the environment changes, the glaciers should be able to recover with privatization and proper management of the losses. If an ice harvest of some kind, similar to what is done in Alaska, was allowed then there would be a bigger push to find ways to slow the melting or help regenerate the lost ice and water. Some form of a reservoir to contain lost water for future use or to be returned to the glacier during the winter as ice instead of just lossing it down stream into the ocean.

      Without this the possibility of losing the glaciers altogether is much greater, but they will most likely retreat to a point where they meet equilibrium and retreating and advances with stay fairly constant. 

      I hope this was able to answer your question fully Wanda :)

  8. Good job, I like the beginning of this article, which is very direct and attractive for readers to know what will be described in this article.

  9. Page looks great! Sorry a little off topic, but can bottled water companies really claim that they are selling "glacier water" from a river? That just seems so skeezy!

  10. What methods are there for preserving glacier ice? 

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