The Politics of Water
Captured Rain — American Thirst, Canadian Water
(CBC and Discovery Channel — November 2000)
Logline: “As water becomes more valuable than oil, captured rain will generate enormous wealth. Or lead to war. Likely both.”
Here in North America, continent-wide water-transfer grids already exist on paper. Way back in the 1950s an engineering firm in Pasadena, California drew up plans to dam Canada’s Rocky Mountain Trench from the Montana-British Columbia border all the way to the city of Prince George—creating a reservoir ten miles wide and 500 miles long to store water for export to the United States. Politics and the Vietnam War got in the way but the plans are still there in a dusty old filing cabinet, ready for the day when push comes to shove.
Another grandiose vision (this one dreamt up by a Canadian) would dam the mouth of James Bay, convert it to a freshwater reservoir (using the same technique the Dutch used on the Zuider Zee), then pump it over the high ground in northern Ontario into the Great Lakes and southwest from there to recharge the Oglala Aquifer and slake the growing thirst of the American Midwest.
Soon enough the politics of water will come to a boil and seem far more urgent to Canadians than the current tar sands debate. The next pipeline battle will be about northern water southbound for California, Nevada, Arizona or New Mexico.
Will prolonged drought in the United States make Canadians feel generous? Few realize that the North America Free Trade Agreement could compel Canada to share its liquid assets—to treat U.S. citizens and corporations on an equal basis with Canadians when it comes to the buying or selling of bulk water. A Pentagon think tank has already declared water to be a national security issue of high importance. In North Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, India and elsewhere water disputes will no doubt lead to bloodshed. Probably sooner rather than later. This is the story of global warming (and overpopulation) writ large. And yet another issue that continues to hold my interest.