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North American Water And Power Alliance

Do you think the Grand Coulee Dam is big?
For that matter, do you think the Tennessee Valley Authority is big?

By 1964, most of the water resources available to Southern California had been utilized.  Still, California continued to grow.  People could see that one day, demand would exceed supply, and retard growth. Since a capitalist economy survives only by growth...

Then, the Pasadena, California engineering firm of Ralph M. Parsons Limited came up with NAWAPA: A scheme for continent-wide control of water resources, much like the continent-wide electrical power grid already in place.

The centerpiece of the scheme was to dam the Fraser River, the Columbia River, the Yukon River, the Liard River, and the Peace River where they left the Rocky Mountain Trench in eastern British Columbia, turning that fault zone into an immense freshwater inland sea.

This would have provided 178 million acre-feet (22 million hectare-meters) of water every year, and gigawatts of hydroelectric power.  The water would be sent to the Prairie Provinces, California, and Mexico for irrigation and urban use, and would be diverted via canals to the Great Lakes, to control the level of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the amount of hydroelectric power produced at places like Niagara Falls.

And, of course, lots of money for Canada from the sale of said water and power.

  • The scheme in its entirety would have cost 100-200 billion dollars to implement.
  • Damage to the environment.  Diverting any amount of water from one place to another affects the ecosystems in both locations, and this is a really big diversion.
  • The largest consumer of this water and power would be California. The idea of Canada selling water to the United States1 has wide political ramifications, ranging from the US becoming dependent on (and thus unwilling to relinquish) resources Canada may one day need, to some Canadians' fear of losing their national identity.
  • Even this amount of water can sustain a finite amount of growth.  What next?
NAWAPA is a very bad idea, but it may yet happen.

Vaguely-remembered Geography lectures, plus

1 And if you don't believe that the entire US wouldn't be seen as the villain instead of just California, you're fooling yourself.

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