2008-01-25 Canadian water exports: will NAWAPA return? Includes map of water diversions, Canada to U.S.
(Scroll down to the map)
(The following is the article. The “I” is not Sandra Finley speaking.)
January 25, 2008
Canadian Water Exports: Will NAWAPA Return?
Robert Kennedy, Jr., recently urged Canadians not to sell or share water with the USA. Nick Lees wrote this (Link no longer valid) article for the 18 January 2008 edition of the Edmonton Journal.
Kennedy and Hollywood gliterati were in Banff to raise funds for theWaterkeeper Alliance. Along with Kennedy were such luminaries as Alec Baldwin, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Jason Priestly, Christie Brinkley, Daryl Hannah, and Kelsey Grammer.
Here are some excerpts from Lees’ article:
“The U.S. southwest is already experiencing a water crisis, with lots of people moving there and development increasing exponentially,” said Kennedy. “They have already run out of water.
“If you talk to government officials, everybody says they are looking for Canada to bail them out.”
Water from the Colorado River is being routed for development to such places as Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
“This is in the short-term interest of a few developers,” said Kennedy, who has a master’s degree in environmental law.
“It’s not a sustainable practice. The Colorado now dies in the Sonoran Desert. It was once a river that fed a great estuary full of fish and migratory birds.”
The Waterkeeper model began in New York in the 1960s when commercial and recreational fishermen, concerned about depleted fish stocks and industrial pollution, decided to organize and restore the health of the Hudson River. A major water contamination issue in the Hudson is the PCB contamination by the General Electric Co.
Later, Kennedy was among those who rejuvenated laws that protected environmental rights and helped clean up the Hudson. He and others formed the Waterkeeper Alliance in 1999, the year the first chapter appeared in Canada. There are now 171 Waterkeeper chapters on six continents.
Kennedy is the son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy.
I understand that at meetings such as this hyperbole is often the order of the day; after all, Kennedy was trying to raise money. I question whether the development in the Southwest is “exponential” and I am unsure “everyone” wants Canada to bail the USA out. But he is right – some people are casting their eyes north of the border.
But Kennedy’s vent does raise the interesting issue of Canada, which has huge amounts of fresh water. I wasn’t going to elaborate on this but I might as well.
I remember Marc Reisner recounting (in the ‘Epilogue’ of Cadillac Desert) a 21 April 1981 visit to San Francisco by British Columbia premier Bill Bennett to address the Commonwealth Club. He castigated those who wanted to stop building dams. But when asked by a questioner if BC would consider selling some of its water to the USA, he firmly replied “No”. Then he added: “But come and see me in twenty years.” Looks like we are overdue.
That brings us to the North American Water and Power Alliance (NAWAPA), a plan conceived in the early 1950s by Donald Baker, an engineer with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The plan would divert water from Canada to the USA (see map below). He took his plan to Ralph M. Parsons, head of the Pasadena engineering firm bearing his name, who instantly fell in love with it.
Parsons started the nonprofit NAWAPA Foundation to “spread the Gospel” about NAWAPA.
NAWAPA attracted the interest of some folks in Congress, especially Sen. Frank Moss (D-UT) and Sen. Hiram Fong (R-HI). Even Gov. Tom McCall, Republican governor of Oregon, and Stewart Udall (initially, when he was Secretary of the Interior) were supporters, but the plan eventually fell into disfavor by the late 1970s. However, I have heard talk about “bringing NAWAPA back”, just as I have heard people suggest reviving a plan to study the diversion of Columbia River water to the Southwest USA.
Here is an article about NAWAPA by Lyndon H. LaRouche, so you might consider the source as you read it. There is even aCanadian site proclaiming “Why NAWAPA is Necessary”. Reisner also has a good discussion of NAWAPA in the ‘Epilogue’ of Cadillac Desert (the source of much of my NAWAPA information).
As a graduate student at the University of Arrizona in the early 1970s I remember some of my professors discussing NAWAPA and the Columbia River scheme, and plans to tap Alaskan water (a component of NAWAPA). In those days it was common for people to say that fresh water flowing into the sea was “wasted”; some people still say that.
Not all Canadians think selling water to the USA is a bad idea. When I was at the University of New Mexico I received a call in the late 1990s from a staffer of Canadian MP Alan Mills, a Conservative who represented Toronto suburbs. She wanted to know if the Southwest USA could use Great Lakes water. “Do fish swim?” I said. She said MP Mills was supportive of such exports and was trying to get the Great Lakes region to agree to them. Dream on, Mr. Mills. It sure is an interesting time to be in the water business in the western USA – and western Canada.
“Water flows uphill to power and money.” — Unknown