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Entrepreneur Plans to Use Ships to Tap the Water Market in California

California, the nation’s leading bottled water market, is about to be awash in foreign water if an enterprising Canadian businessman gets his way.

In a venture that may rival the Alaskan oil pipeline project for ingenuity, Canadian businessman William S. R. Annett, chairman of Western Canada Water Enterprises Inc., has assembled a trio of huge tankers with the capability of transporting more than 60 million gallons of water for industrial and consumer use. The proposed source of the water is Link Lake, a snow-fed lake in British Columbia.

Annett, whose 2-year-old company is based in Vancouver, has already reached preliminary agreement with Televisa S.A., Mexico’s largest private sector company, to ship bulk quantities of water there. And Annett said he is trying to reach a similar agreement with business interests in Los Angeles.

“We are very interested in the Southern California market,” said Annett. “Water is an increasingly scarce commodity. But Canada is very fortunate in having enormous amounts of fresh water and we plan to ship it. It’s an entirely new concept in world trade.”

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Much of Southern California’s tap water already travels vast distances--imported via aqueducts from rivers and basins located hundreds of miles away. And the process can be quite costly.

Although the federal government has supplied some farm-irrigation water for $3.50 an acre-foot (roughly the amount a family might consume in one year), the price of water has been rising in the West. Development of new urban supplies, for example, can run $250 an acre-foot or more.

In addition, there has been mounting public concern over the safety of California’s drinking water as evidenced by the record number of citizens turning to bottled water as a substitute to tap water.

All that, in Annett’s estimation, adds up to a golden marketing opportunity.

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Annett says that although transporting water from Canada is costly, he believes he can still be competitive and notes that the unspoiled Canadian water doesn’t need to be subject to costly purification systems.

He declined to say what the retail price of his water might be but said it would compete against major industrial and bottled water suppliers rather than higher priced premium or specialty brands.


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