Spirit of NAWAPA
By William Walter Kay
The environmental movement’s “climate change” campaign is mainly an effort to phase out coal-fired electrical generation. This social movement also conducts a much publicized decades-old campaign against nuclear power. Almost forgotten is environmentalism’s first victim – hydro-electricity. When the social movement now called “environmentalism” surged forth in the 1960s it did so just in time to cripple North America’s remarkable and ambitious hydro engineering industry. What follows are seven articles discussing the promise of river development and its nemesis.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What Would Augustus Do?
Canada's Bulk Water Export Ban is an Economic Crime
NAWAPA et al
On the Canadian Waterfront
The Myth of Alberta's Water Scarcity
I. What Would Augustus Do?
In 97 AD Frontinus, Rome’s water commissioner, wrote a compendium describing the dimensions of every aqueduct, tank, tap, basin, fountain, and bath in Rome. He described the slave gangs maintaining the infrastructure and even the devices used for illicit tapping. He estimated the capacity of the nine aqueducts then supplying Rome at 222,237,060 gallons a day. Actual daily inflow was 70 million gallons. Rome’s population was one million.
Water captured from mountain springs descended in conduits to Rome. The conduits, usually 5 feet high by 2 feet wide, were either lead-lined tunnels in covered ditches or concrete canals atop arches. The latter method was preferred as concrete was cheap and lead expensive. Many aqueducts used both methods. Reliance on gravity necessitated careful planning. If the slope was too slight the water became sluggish; too steep and it overflowed. The optimal gradient of 1 unit of decline per 200 units of length was difficult to maintain. Circumventing hills and valleys resulted in aqueducts much longer than a straight line between source and city. The Marcia drew water from a spring 16 miles northeast of Rome but zigzagged for 58 miles before it reached the city.
The first aqueduct, the Apia, (310 BC) ran its 10 mile course mostly underground as did the Vetus (270 BC). The Marcia (140 BC) crossed the low plain around Rome (the Campagna) on arches entering Rome 60 metres above the Tiber River – high enough to supply hillside residences. The Tepula (125 BC) and Julia (40 BC) drew water from separate sources but were superimposed onto the Marcia as they approached Rome. The Virgo (19 BC) and Alsientina (2 BC) were primarily underground affairs. The Claudia (52 AD) carried water from a spring across the Campagna on 27-metre-high arches (a 154-arch section still stands). This aqueduct and the associated Anio Novus were the apogee of Roman hydraulic engineering. The Traiana (109 AD) was underground while the Alexandra (226 AD) used arches on most of its course.
Augustus commissioned a 48 km aqueduct crossing the Gard River (France) on a triple deck of arches 300 m long and 50 m high. At an aqueduct in Lyons siphons pulled water up a ravine. An aqueduct commissioned by Hadrian supplied Carthage with water from a mountain 120 km away. An aqueduct at Segovia (Spain) crosses a valley on a series of arches 800 m long and 30 m high. It’s still in use.
Frontinus dared anyone to compare Roman aqueducts with the renowned but useless marble sculptures of the Greeks or Egypt’s Great Pyramids (“rock piles”). Architectural historians complain the aqueducts lack ostentation but Romans valued simplicity, precision, and utility. Even effete architectural historians marvel at the aqueducts’ perfected use of stone and concrete; their durability and economy. Arranging contrasting coloured bricks in a chessboard pattern was as festive as a Roman aqueduct engineer got.
II. Canada's Bulk Water Export Ban is an Economic Crime
In the 1960s exporting Canadian water was topical. By the 1990s bulk water export was widely denounced as a treasonous folly. Current federal and provincial government doctrine is “no water for export.” Given Canada’s vast unused renewable water resources, this is tragic. The imposed consensus is that it is better to dump freshwater into the sea than to sell it.
Counting glaciers and lakes, Canada has 20% of the planet’s freshwater. In terms of “renewable” fresh water, basically river flow, Canada has 7% of global supply. Canada’s 23 major rivers dump 3.3 trillion cubic metres of freshwater into the sea every year. That’s 100,000 cubic metres per Canadian or 275 per citizen per day. A typical Canadian household uses one-third of a cubic metre a day. (1)
River flow is almost a moot point. Canadians hardly use this water. Two thirds of Canada’s river flow glides untouched into the Arctic Ocean or Hudson Bay. In the Northwest Territories the rivers of the Mackenzie Basin discharge 7,337 cubic metres per second into the Arctic. NWT’s population is 42,000. In British Columbia, on whose coast falls on average 5 metres of rain a year, river discharge is 1,600 times greater than water use. (2)
Although ground water constitutes only 7% of Canada’s supply, it is much used. A third of Canadians get their water from wells. Two-thirds of rural Canadians and all Prince Edward Islanders rely on wells. (3)
Many Canadians rely on lakes. Canada’s two million lakes cover 891,000 sq km. The five Great Lakes, the planet’s largest confluence of freshwater, are 36% within Canada. Other large lakes lie entirely inside Canada. Great Bear covers 31,328 sq km to depths of 413 metres. Great Slave covers 28,568 sq km to depths of 614 metres. Lake Winnipeg covers 24,387 sq km; Lake Athabasca covers 7,935 sq km; Lake Nipigon 4,898 sq km, and so on. For comparison: the country of Wales covers 20,732 square km. If the UK (243,073 sq km) was suddenly endowed with Canada’s lakes the country would be deeply submerged. 60 million Brits would be clinging to rafts, their shouts about water scarcity inaudible over the pounding rain.
Canadians were amenable to water export during the Diefenbaker years (1957-1963). Even as late as 1965 the Canadian government informed the US Chamber of Commerce’s National Water Conference that water might be sold to the US or exchanged for access to the US market. Then, with environmentalism’s rise, water export became an emotional issue. Federal officials began proclaiming water was a priceless social asset, unique among commodities, and so precious no right-minded government would ever trade it away. Provincial premiers lined up to oppose water exports. By 1984 the Federal Environment Minister could emphatically “reject the contention that water is available for export.” (4) The 1987 Federal Water Policy pronounced: “the federal government will take all possible measures within the limits of its constitutional authority to prohibit the export of Canadian water.” (5) In 2004 a former Canadian deputy prime minister quipped that any Canadian politician promoting bulk water export would be quickly out of a job. (6)
During negotiations for the 1989 Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Canadians were barraged with water shortage scares. The blitz worked: a 1988 poll showed 69% of Canadians opposed water export. At the same time environmentalist academics released a flock of papers challenging Ottawa’s claim that the FTA did not compel them to permit bulk exports. Ottawa argued otherwise and underscored their assurances by proposing amendments to the Boundary Waters Treaty Act to prohibit bulk removal from boundary waters. This tragicomedy was replayed during negotiations for the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In 1993, to assuage the enviro-lobby, NAFTA negotiators declared: “nothing in the NAFTA would obligate any NAFTA party to either exploit its water for commercial use, or to begin exporting water.”
Speculation persists on whether these trade deals may be interpreted to force open bulk water exports. Enviro-legal theorists fret over provisions requiring US corporations be given “national treatment” which someday may be interpreted to mean that if Canadian corporations are allowed to traffic in bulk water so should American ones. Other provisions also worry environmentalists but NAFTA does allow environmental/health exemptions from its general free trade thrust. Until disputes arise and are resolved we will never know. For over 20 years environmentalists have rung alarm bells over free trade leading to bulk water exports. It ain’t happened yet.
In 1991 California’s Sun Belt Water, Inc. was awarded a licence by British Columbia to ship water by marine tanker to the US. Four days later the licence was cancelled. The company for years sought compensation from the Province in the civil courts and is now seeking $10 billion (US) in damages from the Canadian government under NAFTA’s investor dispute. (7) In 1998 Nova Corp of Sault Ste. Marie received permission from the Ontario government to ship a tanker of water to Asia. The permit was rescinded after a public outcry. (8). There have been several episodes where entrepreneurs reveal plans to ship water only to be stymied after an outcry led by the environmentalist Council of Canadians. (9)
A late 1990s wave of water export phobia prompted Ottawa to announce a strategy to permanently block bulk water exports. In 1999 Ottawa and Washington requested the International Joint Commission to study diversion and removal of boundary waters. IJC responded immediately with a call for a moratorium on bulk removals from the Great Lakes. Their final report, Protection of the Waters of the Great Lakes (March 2000), recommended bulk water removals be prohibited unless proponents demonstrate the removal would not endanger the “integrity of the ecosystem.” Their recommendations, enshrined in the Boundary Waters Treaty, prevent bulk water removal from the Great Lakes or any other border-area watershed. (10) Also in 1999 the Canadian Council of Environment Ministers floated a Canada-wide provincial accord to prohibit bulk water exports. While no accord surfaced all provinces save New Brunswick now forbid bulk exports. (11)
Here’s an idea! Dig a trench from a freshwater lake to the nearest coast. Drain the freshwater into the salty sea. Sound like a dumb idea? That’s what rivers do; they channel freshwater into the ocean. Rivers are dumb ideas.
Canada does export bulk water. We export it into oceans all the time – a hundred Niagara Falls worth. The option of selling this freshwater to other countries has been rendered politically unfeasible by the environmental movement. Canadians are much poorer as a result.
III. Hydro Nation
Canadians adopted the beaver as a symbol because of its importance to the fur trade but it might just as well symbolize our dam building proclivity. Canadians have built 849 dams, mostly between 1940 and 1980, mostly for hydro-electricity. 59% of Canadian electrical output is from hydro-electricity. (12) Canada is the world’s second largest producer, and leading exporter, of hydro-electricity. (13) Nowhere but Canada is the word “hydro” a synonym for electricity (in French or English). Hydro Quebec, BC Hydro, Manitoba Hydro and Ontario Hydro are economic pillars.
Canadians are world champions in the environmental blasphemy of “inter-basin transfers.” (Defined as: river diversions exceeding 1 cubic metre per second where the water does not return to its stream of origin within 25k of the point of withdrawal.) Of 62 inter-basin transfers 49 were for hydro-electric purposes, 10 were for irrigation, one was for municipal water and one was a diversion near Lake Superior begun as a transportation project but was transformed into a hydro-electric facility during WWII.) (14) 97% of diverted river flow in Canada is for power generation. (15)
Not all hydro-electric projects involve inter-basin diversions but diversions are worthy innovations. Increasing the quantity of water pouring down the incline increases the usable force pressing on the turbine. Hydro-electric inter-basin transfers involve damming a steep river, then diverting into it water from a nearby river. 40% of BC’s Nechako River was diverted down a 16 km tunnel to a dam on the Kemano River to generate electricity for an aluminum smelter. (16) Manitoba Hydro diverted most of the Churchill River into the Nelson River where a dam with generators had already been installed. Hydro Quebec’s James Bay Project diverts the Eastmain, Caniapiscau, and Sakami Rivers into the La Grande River thereby increasing La Grande’s flow from 1700 to 3300 cubic metres per second. A staircase of six dams was built on La Grande. (17)
Marking the apogee of Canadian hydraulic engineering is difficult because of the length of time between a hydro project’s proposal and its completion. While the 1970s saw considerable dam construction many of these projects were planned and approved before the Big Eco-Chill of the late 1960s. Technologically, the industry never peaked. Earth-moving machinery, turbine, and transmission-line technology have never been better. This is a story of arrested development.
Inter-governmental cooperation is vital to hydro development. Rivers cross borders. A hydro-project’s economic feasibility often requires electricity and cash to cross borders. Canadian hydro promoters must navigate fractionalized authority structures. Canadian international relations are federal jurisdiction but provinces control water resources. The US federal government has unqualified dominance in international relations and predominant authority over interstate waterworks but states control distribution of water to consumers and have concurrent jurisdiction over major water projects.
North Americans were enthusiastic about river development in the 1935-1972 era. The period saw the construction of a dozen massive aqueducts/canals/hydro-electric/dam projects in California, Arizona, and elsewhere in the Southwest. (30 million people presently draw their household water from this infrastructure.) A major upgrade of the St. Lawrence Seaway was celebrated at an opening ceremony attended by President Eisenhower and PM Diefenbaker in 1959. (This project, which was opposed by the owners of Atlantic ports, allows ocean-going freighters to reach Duluth, Minnesota.) PM Diefenbaker’s Progressive-Conservatives had a commanding majority in the House of Commons and a strong desire to develop water resources in cooperation with the provinces and the Americans. A 1958 federal-provincial agreement to dam the South Saskatchewan River received unanimous support in the Commons. (The dam, completed in 1967, helps form Lake Diefenbaker – a reservoir with an 800 km shoreline which in addition to a hydro-electric function supplies 45% of Saskatchewanians with drinking water, irrigates 200,000 acres, and is a popular recreation spot.) Canada’s National Power Policy encouraged hydro-electric development by facilitating inter-provincial and province-to-state transmission line hook-ups. Its “pre-build” orientation promoted the construction of hydro-electric projects before their electricity was needed domestically if US markets could be found. (Pentland)
The apogee of Canada-US hydro cooperation is the 1961 Columbia River Treaty (ratified 1964). The Columbia is a large and unusually high river rising in central British Columbia and winding across the 49th parallel before draining into the Pacific near Portland Oregon. American impetus for the Treaty was driven by entrepreneurial aspirations of the US Interior Department’s Bonneville Power Administration and the US Army Corps of Engineers. BC Premier W.A.C. Bennett won a reversal of Canadian policy prohibiting electricity export. He won federal recognition of BC ownership of proprietary rights arising under the Treaty and he had a BC agency placed in charge of Treaty implementation. To fund BC’s Hydro construction commitments he fandangled a $250 million cash advance from American power purchasers. As the Columbia Treaty became a reality, Bennett turned his attention to developing the Peace River.
Hydro-electricity in BC dates to a small operation on Vancouver Island completed in 1898. Electricity was a private affair until the 1945 formation of the BC Power Commission to supply power to BC’s isolated areas. Publically owned BC Hydro was founded in 1961 to develop the Columbia and Peace Rivers. Between 1961 and 1984 BC Hydro completed dozens of world-class hydro-electric projects. Presently BC Hydro operates 30 hydro-electric facilities. 80% of the BC’s electricity comes from large generators powered by the Columbia and Peace Rivers. (18)
Ontario Hydro (OH) dates to a 1906 decision of the Ontario legislature to provide electricity at cost to 14 municipalities. Over the next 70 years OH built 240 dams, 69 with hydro-electric stations – many with multiple generators – and 130,000 km of transmission lines. (Hydro-electricity was eclipsed in the mid-1960s by a decision to go nuclear. Today half Ontario’s electricity comes from nuclear power.) (19)
Manitoba’s first hydro-electric project was a turn of the century 8 metre dam on the Minnedosa River to supply power to Brandon, at least in summer. In 1911 the City of Winnipeg built an all-year plant on the Winnipeg River; it is still in use. A variety of public and private projects served the province until the consolidation of Manitoba Hydro (MH) in 1961. Over the next decade seven generators were installed on the Nelson River and three on the Saskatchewan. In the 1970s MH strung lines to Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Minnesota. Today MH’s 14 generators provide Manitobans with some of the world’s cheapest electricity and export $625 million worth per year; 82% to the US (2008). (20)
Quebec hydro-power dates to small private projects circa 1900. In 1944, responding to complaints of poor service and high rates, the Quebec government expropriated the main Montreal-area utility and founded the publically-owned Hydro Quebec. HQ bought out the rest of province’s electricity suppliers in 1963 for $600 million. Over the next 25 years HQ built many of the world’s largest dams and generators and pioneered high-voltage long-distance transmission-line technology. HQ produces 7% of global hydro-electricity. Hydro meets 98% of Quebec’s electricity needs. HQ exports on average $2 billion worth of electricity a year. Quebec has 4,500 rivers and streams. (21)
IV. NAWAPA et al
Land east of the 97th meridian (a line from Corpus Christi, Texas to Winnipeg, Manitoba) has adequate precipitation. The Pacific north coast has a bothersome surplus. North America’s arid areas are: the southern Canadian prairie; a 500 km belt parallel to the eastern foothills from Montana to Texas; a 180 km strip north of the Mexican border from El Paso to California; Mexico’s northwest; isolated plains of Nevada and Utah; and south California.
In the 1960s trans-continental water diversions were seriously considered. Garnering most attention was the North American Water and Power Alliance (NAWAPA) scheme unveiled in 1964 by a Los Angeles engineering firm, Parsons & Co. Many US businesses backed NAWAPA. Utah Senator Moss, an enthusiastic supporter, argued NAWAPA would end the water worries stifling western development and impairing the entire nation’s growth.
NAWAPA would divert hundreds of billions of cubic metres of water annually from rivers in Alaska, the Yukon, and British Columbia to: Alberta and Saskatchewan; 22 US states; and the Mexican states of Baja, Sonora, and Chihuahua. NAWAPA envisioned a series of connected reservoirs starting in the dammed headwaters of north-western rivers. Fifteen reservoirs would be larger than Lake Mead (America’s largest reservoir). Its Rocky Mountain Trench reservoir would equal 16 Meads. From this reservoir’s southern tip water would be directed through Montana to Idaho then sent over the mountains by six huge pumps. A canal 200 metres wide and 10 metres deep would carry this water through Utah to Nevada where it would be split into one aqueduct going to California and Baja and another going to Arizona, New Mexico, Chihuahua, and Sonora. A separate branch of NAWAPA would start with a reservoir filled by British Columbia’s Peace River from which a canal 25 metres wide and 10 metres deep would channel water through the Canadian prairies to the Great Lakes. Another NAWAPA component would connect Lake Manitoba’s northern tip to Hudson Bay and its southern tip through a North Dakota Canal to the Mississippi. (22)
NAWAPA is basically a series of choice hydro-power sites with connected reservoirs. It requires 50 constructs: dams, canals, tunnels, and reservoirs. Using 1960s technology it would take 20 years to complete. With today’s equipment it could be finished quicker. NAWAPA’s late 1960s $100 billion price tag was updated in 2004 to $600 billion (US$). A much greater sum is currently being spent on stimulus and bail-out packages by North American governments.
With today’s technology NAWAPA would irrigate over 60 million acres of farmland, generate over 70 million kilowatts of electricity, and forever end the municipal water supply concerns of the US South-West. NAWAPA would regulate water levels in the Great Lakes and allow for a periodic flushing out of their dirty water. NAWAPA would create recreational opportunities, particularly with its 500-mile-long Rocky Mountain Trench reservoir.
A rival proposal, the Canadian Central Water Supply System (CeNAWP), relies on several large Canadian lakes so closely spaced that a few hundred kilometres of canals could unite them. CeNAWP would divert the Mackenzie, Churchill, and Nelson Rivers into these lakes. Great Bear Lake’s surplus would flow to Great Slave Lake; then through Lakes Athabasca, Winnipeg, and Nipigon; and finally to Lake Superior – the western-most Great Lake. The Great Lake system provides many options for diverting water to points south and west. Some of the water diverted into Lake Winnipeg would be sent directly south to the Missouri River and then via canal to the Rio Grande on the Mexican-American border. CeNAWP’s virtues are: it avoids mountains; it provides a barge route from the Great Lakes to the Arctic; it generates sufficient hydro-electric power at drops along its route to run all pumps within the system; it requires no reservoirs; it is one-third NAWAPA’s cost.
The Great Recycling and Northern Development (GRAND) Canal scheme proposes turning James Bay into a freshwater reservoir capable of sending 36 cubic kilometres of water per year to the Great Lakes. A dike separating James Bay from Hudson Bay would open at low tides and close at high tides to release salt water and retain freshwater. In a few years James Bay would be a lake. Nuclear power plants would pump this water through pipelines to Lake Huron from where it would go to Lake Superior and points west or to Lake Michigan and points southwest. Drops along the latter routes generate power. GRAND was promoted by Bechtel, US Army Corps of Engineers, Quebec Premier Bourassa, and Simon Riesman (Canada’s free trade negotiator). GRAND would cost $180 billion (C$, 2004 prices). It would create 150,000 construction jobs and 150,000 jobs in firms supplying goods and services. (23)
Many schemes exploit the fact that the southernmost Canadian prairies are in the Missouri River Basin. The Western States Water Augmentation Concept and other schemes would divert rivers like the Athabasca or Mackenzie eastward along the Saskatchewan Rivers to Lake Winnipeg and then via aqueduct to the Missouri Basin and points west and southwest.
Another family of schemes advocated economical coastal aqueducts. National Engineering Science Company proposed capturing streams pouring into the north Pacific and sending them down a shoreline aqueduct to southern California. The Texas Water Plan proposed a coastal canal to corral water flowing into the Gulf of Mexico into a massive reservoir from where it could be pumped west.
There were also schemes to cover large lakes with buoys and white tarps to capture evaporating water. The volumes of water lost to evaporation from lakes rivals that lost from river discharge into oceans.
So many wonderful schemes...find a map of North America and design your own. Into the Arctic, the northern Pacific and Hudson Bay flow trillions of cubic metres of fresh unused water...year after year. The challenge is to shunt this water to where the sun shines: the J-shaped area covering Baja/South California, northwest Mexico, the US Southwest, and the Great Plains. Don’t have too much fun customizing your NAWAPA. Despite wide-spread enthusiasm for continental water transfers, the environmental movement rendered them politically unfeasible.
Opponents of long-distance water transfer have political-economic motives but rely on environmental rationales. Western states and provinces have the highest rates of economic growth in North America. There is a westward migration of industrial wealth and political power. Continental water schemes would open up hinterlands in North America’s northwest and southwest; creating even more explosive growth across the west. This is viewed with horror by the old metropoles’ old guard. Economist J. Crutchfield, a leading NAWAPA critic, was one of the few willing to spell it out:
“For every area of unusually rapid economic development in the American economy there must be another in which growth is less rapid because of the need to transfer labour and capital to areas where economic opportunities are the greatest.” (24)
NAWAPA irrigation would sprout thousands of farms on sun-drenched south-western plains; creating an explosion of farm output. This was a threat according to Crutchfield because:
“technological progress in agriculture...has consistently outrun the growth of population and effective demand...nor is there any finding that the (NAWAPA-induced) increased agricultural output would in fact be needed to satisfy growing demand at going prices.” (25)
He pointed out governments were intervening in the market to reduce agricultural output. NAWAPA, contrariwise, would flood the market with food and fibre.
In 1968 the Green Eminence got Congress to impose a ten-year moratorium on studies of inter-basin transfers. In 1978 this moratorium was renewed for another decade. Since 1986 no federal funds can be directed to studying inter-basin transfers involving the Great Lakes unless all Great Lake governors approve. The Council of Great Lake Governors led by New York and Pennsylvania has decreed that no Great Lake state should develop new or increased diversions without the consent of all affected. A 2000 US government amendment to the Water Resources Development Act prohibits diversion from the Great Lakes unless approved by each Great Lake governor. Their arguments boil down to, “Why should we share Great Lakes water with the West at a time when many firms are leaving our area and relocating to the West?” (26) To contrast: in 1900, with fanfare, the Chicago Diversion reversed the flow of the Chicago River sending Great Lakes water south. Such projects are now unstudyable.
The coming of free trade caused Canadian officials to modify their water talk. The preamble for the 1987 Federal Water Policy asserts diversions “would inflict enormous harm on both the environment and society, especially in the North, where the ecology is delicate and where the effects on Native cultures would be devastating.” (27) Apart from the Great Lakes and the Columbia River, most river basins fall onto one side or the other of the US-Canada border. Forbidding inter-basin transfers on environmental grounds is tantamount to forbidding international transfer. The inconvenient debate about the political-economy of water diversion is replaced by an esoteric ecological discourse. The Feds no longer speaks of prohibiting international diversion; they speak of prohibiting “the bulk removal of water from the five major drainage basins in Canada.” Environmental re-framing was the default position taken once free trade was approved. Diversions are opposed because they change natural river flows, introduce of non-indigenous biota, and impair ecosystem productivity. (28)
Common misunderstanding arises from forgetting what a Liar’s Club politicians are. They claim to pursue growth and prosperity yet yield to a powerful lobby hostile to both. This lobby, under cover of green, deep-sixed NAWAPA and many other worthy hydro proposals.
V. Damning Dams
During the 20th century global population increased four-fold while water consumption increased seven-fold. The century witnessed the construction of 24,000 large dams (higher than 15 m). Today there are 45,000 such dams (China 22,000, USA 6,575, India 4,291, Japan 2,675, Spain 1,196, and Canada 849). There were 8 million hectares of irrigated farmland on Earth in 1800. This increased to 40 million ha by 1900 and to 272 million by 2000. Large dams supply 35% of irrigation water. Large dam hydro-electric power began around 1900. Today it generates 20% of global electricity. Dam construction peaked during the 1970s; 5,418 went up in that decade. Construction then declined sharply due to environmentalist opposition to these “temples of modernity.” In the 1990s only 2,069 were built. (29)
In the 1970s environmentalists offered “Demand Management” as an alternative to “Supply Management” thinking. Demand Management stresses water is finite and aquatic ecosystems are fragile. To get people off the dam habit they argued behavioural, not just technological, change was needed. Shifting to Demand Management required spreading fears of water scarcity, declines in aquatic ecological health, and loss of heritage rivers. Environmentalists blocked conventional water projects, forcing waters managers to look for other options. (30)
After imposing Demand Management in the 1980s, environmentalists pressed on with “Integrated Water Resource Management” to broaden the range of ecological and cultural considerations. IWRM is entwined with Aboriginalist movements. IWRM requires water managers apply the precautionary principle. In the developed world IWRM Thought is now incorporated into much water-related legislation and it is the assumed framework for water policy discussion. (31)
Numerous IWRM manifestos were issued after the 1987 UN World Commission on Environment and Development (the “sustainable development” summit). The 1992 “Dublin Statement” of the International Conference on Water declared water a finite resource needing eco-participatory management. The Dublin Statement was discussed at length at the Rio “Earth Summit” later that year. In 1997 the UN held the first of four World Water Forums from which sprang the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) – a joint venture of UNESCO and the UN’s Commission for Sustainable Development. UNESCO’s 1999 Principles for Ethical Water Use emphasises intergenerational equity and aboriginal participation. A Water Framework Directive was passed by the European Parliament in 2000. The Directive’s goal is “integrated river basin management for Europe” and it begins with: “water is not a commercial product like any other...but a heritage which must be protected.” (32) In 2001 UN Secretary General Kofi Annan gave a water speech which, in keeping with IWRM practice, diluted the conservationist agenda with calls for safe drinking water for the poor. IWRM Thought was much in evidence at the UN’s Johannesburg Summit (2002) and in the UN’s Water for Life Decade (launched 2005). The UN’s call to arms, Water for People, Water for Life claims the “water crisis” is really a “governance crisis.” World Resources Institute and WWAP demand “water governance.” (33)
Environmentalist principles are code words. “Intergenerational equity” discounts the needs of the living generation by juxtaposing them with speculative needs of future generations for whom environmentalists are self-appointed spokespersons. “Polluter pay” means shifting the tax burden onto industry. “Transparency and participation” means infiltrating enviro-NGOs into state and industrial decision-making venues.
Resistance to dam construction is abetted by the pseudo-science of Environmental Flow Assessment which seeks to monopolize authority on natural flows of rivers and their relationship to wildlife. EFA courses are taught at most universities. A river’s natural volume varies seasonally and year to year. Thus EFA profs speak of a river’s “Q95” – the flow equalled or exceeded 95% of the time. EFA-programmed computer models simulate complex indices like invertebrate populations at Q95, at Q95+1 and so on. “Habitat suitability curves” divine ideal flow regimes. Such tools give EFA profs singular understanding about flow’s interconnectedness with the welfare of the panoply of riverine species. (Like anyone cares.) Like “Conservation Biology” EFA is not value neutral. It is predicated on the “natural flow paradigm.” Ideal flow is subjective. EFA’s goal is maintaining rivers’ “natural flow regimes.” Natural Flow is eulogized as the determinant of a river’s “biophysical balance”; of its “ecological integrity.” Native aquatic species are adaptations to Natural Flow. Invasive species thrive when Natural Flow is changed. EFA profs ask: “How much can we modify a river before its ecosystem is noticeably changed?” and “How much flow is necessary to meet ecological needs?” (34)
The aim of any human hydraulic endeavour is relocating water. Regarding rivers this means changing the Natural Flow. EFA is programmed to resist Natural Flow change. An EFA prof’s contribution to an environmental assessment of a dam will invariably consist of doctrinaire opposition draped in highfalutin scientistic lingo.
Resistance to dam construction engendered a school within environmental economics specializing in evaluating natural water resources. Classical economic rhetoric is appropriated to tabulate the “goods and services” provided by slues. An example of this campaign is Environment Canada’s Monitoring the Value of Natural Capital (2005) which puts dollar values on water-related “ecosystem services” through an “integration environment and economic accounting.” The endeavour is aimed at conjuring grandiose dollar values for wetlands that make the paltry billions derived from hydro-electricity and irrigation seem hardly worth the effort. Environmental economics, in general, is shamelessly conservationist.
Opposing dams involves mobilizing local indigenous tribes diagnosed allergic to industrialization. Enviro-NGOs organize indigenous groups and build their capacity to obstruct river development. Ecologists study fauna and flora used in indigenous medicine and ritual, then search for these in proposed dams’ reservoir sites. Environmentalists demand the indigenous be given special say, over and above any numerical democratic entitlement, during a dam’s planning stages. What matters is whether the indigenous feel a dam is appropriate. (35)
Anti-dam crusaders pressure international lenders to stop funding hydro projects. Responding to accusations of environmental degradation and population displacement, the World Bank now conducts environmental and social assessments of all dam proposals. In 1997 the Bank released a report on previously funded dams, then co-sponsored, with the World Conservation Union, a conference to discuss the report. The World Commission on Dams (WCD) was hatched at this conference.
The WCD is to dams what the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change is to coal. WCD’s much-quoted 2000 Report claims dam benefits are overwhelmed by social and environmental costs. WCD asserts modern dams displaced 40 to 80 million persons, negatively impacted ecosystems, and irreversibly deformed landscapes. WCD blames hydro-electricity for suppressing energy alternatives like wind and solar. WCD advocates full consideration of all alternatives before a dam is resorted to. Hydro engineers should consider the welfare of all species. Local tribes should have a veto over dam construction. (36)
K. Biswas, President of the Third World Centre for Water Management and 2006 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate, had this to say:
“one of its (2000 Report) two god-fathers, the World Bank, did not endorse the report and the major dam-building countries like China, India and Turkey have very specifically rejected this report. Some of its views are fundamentally erroneous. For example, the Commission has claimed that 40-80 million people have been displaced by large dams. No knowledgeable and objective expert will accept even the lower estimate of 40 million, which is wide of the mark. The total estimate is likely to very significantly less. To claim that it could be as high as 80 million is patently ridiculous. ...A major problem facing the developing world at present is the knee-jerk reactions of certain activist groups, primarily from the Western countries, that large scale water developments are no longer necessary...” (37)
The march of IWRM can be measured in statements of US government agencies. The Department of the Interior’s “Water 2025” (2003) concedes western USA faces a water shortage. However, because of environmentalism’s veto of dams and diversions, the Department can offer only nominal amounts for infrastructure upgrades. Water 2025 recommends: more conservation, price increases, and better collaboration with tribes and enviro-NGOs. New water projects must accommodate Federal Endangered Species Act regulations to preserve wetland habitat. (38) The International Joint Commission (IJC) was formed in 1912 by US and Canadian governments to solve problems (primarily navigation-related) on shared waters. IJC now protects wildlife from urbanization and stems the invasion of alien species. In 1998 IJC began establishing local eco-activist “watershed boards” to facilitate enviro-NGO involvement in water planning. (39) The Council of Great Lakes Governors’ mission is to facilitate “environmentally responsible growth.” CGLG promotes sustainable development, habitat enhancement and combating the non-native species allegedly invading the Lakes at a rate of one every eight months. (40)
VI. On the Canadian Waterfront
In the 1950s Canadian water managers supplied water to households, ensured river navigability, generated electricity, and prevented floods. Today their tasks encompass restoring aquatic habitat and conserving heritage rivers. All levels of government now profess “integrated ecosystem and watershed management approaches.” In the 1950s water management was the domain of technical experts in senior government agencies. Today it is increasingly directed by self-appointed “stakeholders” pressing for evermore “distributed governance.” Their priority is “protecting aquatic ecosystems.”
Around 1968 river development discourse suddenly became holistic and enviro-sensitive. By the early 1970s the federal, and every provincial, government had an Environment Ministry preaching, amongst other things, a type of water-Malthusianism. “Water is finite” became the motto. New research institutes were established to support these efforts such as Environment Canada’s Inland Waters Directorate. Mulroney’s blue-ribbon Inquiry on Federal Water Policy (1985-87) called for “science leadership” on the trail to “clean, safe and secure water for people and ecosystems.” Its declared goal was meeting “environmental needs of future generations.” It recommended raising water prices. (41)
In the 1990s a green agenda permeated quangos like: Prairie Provinces Water Board, Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. The CCME approved a national plan in 1994 to encourage water conservation through user-pay, price hikes, and “education.” In the same year the Canadian Water Resources Association released Sustainability Principles for Water Management, which buzzes with phrases like: ecological integrity, biological diversity, sustainability ethic, precautionary principle, watershed boundary, and the value of water for other species. Ottawa’s Environmental Harmonization initiative (1998) sought to clarify jurisdiction and standardize regulation on many issues including water. While Quebec never joined and the effort fizzled, many provinces launched environmentalist water programs shortly thereafter including: BC’s Water Sustainability Action Plan and Freshwater Strategy (1999), Saskatchewan’s Water Management Framework (1999), Nova Scotia’s Water Resources Protection Act (2000), Quebec’s Water Policy (2002), Nova Scotia’s Drinking Water Strategy (2002), Alberta’ Water For Life (2003), Saskatchewan’s Long-Term Safe Drinking Water Strategy (2003), and Manitoba’s Water Strategy (2005). (Matthews) During this period many municipalities began both water metering and water-related “information transfer” programs. CCME’s Accounting in Water (2005) is all about reducing water use. Increasing supply through river diversion is no longer a topic of polite conversation. (42)
Currently the international environmental movement is targeting Canada’s water resource on several fronts. Their agenda includes: 1) a reinvigorated federal water policy including a federal safe water drinking act; 2) bolstering First Nations water rights; 3) robust conservationist regulation; 4) government-funded research; 5) better access to information regarding government water strategies; 6) more water metering; 7) higher water prices. (43) Advancing this agenda involves steering 19 Federal departments having some water involvement. Two main federal concerns are: science and aboriginal rights. “Science” means channelling money to academics fighting for “precautionary decision-making with respect to water resources.” (44)
Native reserves are a federal responsibility but water is provincial. Some reserves have explicit water allotments. Elsewhere it is implicitly understood reserves are entitled to water. Alberta’s Peigan Nation recently settled a lawsuit recognizing their reservation grant included a water entitlement. Environmentalists claim natives have rights to “preserved aquatic ecosystems” and extraordinary rights to participate in water-use decision-making. Such reasoning underlies a plethora of politico-legal activism. In Claxton v. Saanichton Marina Ltd. the Tsawout stopped a marina development they claimed would disturb eel grass. To block logging the Siska put forth oral evidence that affected waters had spiritual importance. The Haida claim title to the deep sea and ocean bed around the Queen Charlotte Islands. The Anishinabe claim areas under the Great Lakes. (45) In the US, New Mexico’s tribal governments can now veto any water project in the state if the affected waters connect to tribal ones.
Another native water issue regards reserve drinking water quality. A 2001 Assembly of First Nation’s report estimated 20% of reserves had contaminated water. (46) Enviro-activism clouds the issue. The problem is lack of modern water treatment facilities but the contamination is often alleged to be caused by agriculture, mining, and logging activity carried on far from the reserve.
An exemplary window onto eco-aboriginal water perspectives is A. Walkem’s essay The Land is Dry: Indigenous Peoples, Water and Environmental Justice in the compendium Eau Canada edited by Karen Baker. Walkem is a lawyer specializing in the use of indigenous oral traditions in land claims. As an aboriginal sovereigntist she contends aboriginal rights to water, and responsibilities to protect water, are broader than Canadian law allows and exist independent of Canadian law. She claims aboriginals practised superior resource management since time immemorial. “Newcomer” resource management is denounced for assuming water exists for human needs. Indigenous land ethics recognize spiritual and emotional connections between people and nature. They believe water has inherent value, is “sacred,” and that “all beings have equal rights to water.” Aboriginals, she informs us, traditionally assessed water use with a view to what the environmental impacts would be seven generations into the future. Tribal elders subscribe to “kincentric ecology” defined as: “awareness that life in any environment is viable only when humans view the life surrounding them as kin.” Walkem is obviously spooning Deep Ecology clichés into the mouths of tribal elders. Her examples of traditional ecological knowledge include unfounded howlers like: James Bay rivers have toxic levels of mercury “due to a chemical reaction between decaying organic matter and submerged rocks”; DDT in polar bear meat causes severe health problems to the Inuit; and diabetes in Great Lakes’ natives is caused by industrial pollution. She says the only hope is that “newcomers” recognize the superiority of indigenous ecological knowledge. “Newcomers” are a greedy, arrogant, ignorant invasive species.
Karen Bakker, UBC Geography prof and director of UBC’s Program for Water Governance, is aware “water governance” impacts the full realm of markets and states. This view is shared by her compatriots at the U of Victoria’s POLIS Project on Ecological Governance, which includes key players from Friends of Earth, Greenpeace, Smart Growth BC, and the Sierra Legal Defense Fund. At POLIS “water governance” is part of “a fundamentally larger social transformation. This transformation is about a new way of dealing with water, nature and ourselves – ultimately, it is a form participatory management called ecological governance. (47) POLIS does not push for more efficient water use but for reductions in use. Ecological governance demands decreases in industrial output which will, it is freely admitted, increase unemployment and thus is achievable only through mass re-education. Eco-governors demand universal water metering and water price hikes. The suburban lawn must be xeriscaped (“xeros” means dry) with rock gardens and drought tolerant plants like cacti replacing grass. (Cattle skulls could replace garden gnomes.) Eco-governors want indoor composters to replace flush toilets. Urbanites should bathe in captured rainfall. (True believers could drink from gutters and defecate in their backyards.)
Veteran federal water bureaucrat and enviro-prof, John Sprague’s contribution to Eau Canada spouts: “there must be a continued campaign to get Canadians to abandon the myth of water abundance.” (48) His calculation of Canada’s water supply disregards lakes and aquifers, makes no mention of glaciers, and subtracts all river water discharging northward or into the US. Even this arbitrarily reduced quantum vastly exceeds national usage. What matters to Sprague is that his estimated volume is less than what the Russians have! U of Alberta Ecology Prof David Schindler, relying on Sprague’s math, calls assurances of Canadian water abundance: “lies.” Other ecologists, all quoting Sprague, are convinced Canada is in a “water crisis.” (49)
Eco-governance localizes water management. Large enviro-organizations cobble local NIMBY-style eco-activists into “watershed stewardship groups” to give the effort a ‘movement-of-the-people’ facade. Enviro-activists, styled “civil society” or “citizen’s groups,” infiltrate water-use decision-making at every governmental level, particularly the municipal. This trend goose-steps with environmentalism’s “principle of subsidiarity” which asserts matters should be handled by the most local competent authority. The principle is applied thoroughly in the EU where it is balanced by a “harmonization” process taking stringent local regulations as models for standardization campaigns.
In every province environmentalists solicit funds so “local stakeholders” can build “capacity.” Examples of “distributed water governance” include Nova Scotia’s Annapolis River Guardians and Quebec’s 33 citizen-run Watershed Organizations. (50) BC’s Fraser Basin Council wins acclaim for its extensive involvement of aboriginals in water management. (51) Distributed Governance is most advanced in Ontario where Water Response Teams devise and police conservation and rationing schemes. Ontario environmentalists successfully exploited the Walkerton tragedy of 2000. (Walkerton township suffered an outbreak of water-borne disease resulting from a well that was badly situated and maintained. The well’s untrained operators aggravated matters by concealing the contamination.) Amidst the cash Ontario’s government threw out after Walkerton was $12.5 million (2004) to enable Conservation Authorities to study water sourcing. (Established in 1946, Ontario’s 26 Conservation Authorities pioneered Integrated Watershed Resource Management.) (52) In 2005 Conservation Authorities received $16.5 million for staff and resources and another $51 million for a further five years of studies. Environmentalists hope Ontario’s Clean Water Act (2006) regime will constrain “factory farms.”
This “retreat of the state” from water management is the flipside of the beachheads the “ecosystem rights” movement is establishing within governments. Eco-activists embedded in government water agencies are a vanguard. Their goal is imposing legally enforceable rights of wilderness to water. The battle is over clarifying when ecosystem rights trump human rights. While they are far from imposing the eco-governance they desire, they have thwarted hydro-electric projects.
A massive campaign against Hydro-Quebec’s James Bay Project was orchestrated by an environmentalist-native alliance. James Bay area natives, who suffered infinitesimal economic damage as a result of the project, were given $225 million, title to 13,000 sq km of land, and exclusive hunting rights to a much larger area. This deal engendered ever-changing side agreements, never-ending negotiations and strained federal/provincial relations, and still failed to stop the protests and boycotts. In 1992 New York Governor Mario Cuomo, bowing to environmentalist pressure, cancelled a $5 billion electricity purchase from HQ. The James Bay Project’s viability was predicated on selling power to the US. The next phase of James Bay, the Great Whale Project, was cancelled in the 1990s. HQ went into a construction slump for a decade and even began experimenting with natural gas powered generators. Recently HQ announced major new hydro-projects and appears to have bought peace with the Cree with a $4.5 billion 50-year deal. These new projects involve significant river diversions. (53)
In 1992 enviro-supremo Maurice Strong was brought in to restructure Ontario Hydro. He ended construction plans and laid off 7,000. In 1999 OH was broken into several private companies, most importantly Ontario Power Generation and Ontario Hydro Service Co. OPG produces 70% of Ontario electricity. OPG’s only new hydro project involves a very expensive but unobtrusive tunnel under the Niagara. The premise is sacrificing economics to minimize environmental impact. Even slight modifications of OPG’s older facilities are constrained. Replacing obsolete turbines at their Upper Mattagami dam requires consultation with local native chiefs. (54)
In BC perennial conflict occurs between river developers and salmon defenders. Salmon, the menu item, is abundantly reproduced with aquaculture. The species is about as endangered as the dog. Wild salmon however, are sacred biota. Prime BC hydro-electric sites are sacrificed to “save the salmon” notably on the middle and lower stretches of the mighty Fraser. Smaller, run-of-the-river hydro projects were touted by the BC government as the next big thing but even they are under attack. BC Hydro has not started a major dam in 30 years. BC is now importing electricity. The obvious next step is a third dam, “Site C,” on the Peace River. Site C’s design phase was completed a quarter century ago. In 2009 the Province allocated another $40 million for more Site C consultation with environmentalists and natives. (55)
During the 1990s Manitoba Hydro bogged down in environmental and native negotiations. They were forced into 14 separate “agreements” with native bands to compensate them for past dam construction. Established legal concepts of “damage” are irrelevant in such negotiations. MH shelled out $400 million. A single hydro-electric project is in the works – the first in decades. The “Wuskatim” should be completed in 2012. The local Cree tribe has been offered a one-third equity stake in the project and indigenous ecological knowledge has been supplicated to. Wuskatim construction has been blockaded by natives. (56)
Hydro-electricity was, and remains, important to Canada’s development. Dams now in use were approved before environmentalism became a state religion, before wilderness preservation became a valid reason for impeding development, before inter-basin river transfers were decreed a heresy, before aboriginal lifestyles were romanticized, before enviro-police scrutiny of development proposals became compulsory, before hydro proposals were subjected to interminable assessments, before ecological obfuscations were agonized over. Under contemporary rules these dams would not have been built and Canada would not be a modern country.
VII. The Myth of Alberta Water Scarcity
Alberta’s western border runs imperfectly along the Great Divide – a jagged ridge connecting the heights of land amidst the Rocky Mountains. To the Great Divide’s west, rivers flow west. To its east, they flow east. Another divide, running east-west, intersects the Great Divide at the Columbia Ice Fields. Alberta rivers rising north of the Ice Field drain into the Arctic Ocean. Rivers rising to the Ice Field’s south race eastwardly across the prairies to Manitoba from where water flows out in three directions.
Several major rivers cross Alberta. 87% of this water flows unused into the Arctic. The two largest rivers, the Peace and Athabasca, are both northern. In a typical year the Peace pours 68 billion cubic metres of water into Lake Athabasca. The Athabasca offloads around 21 billion cubic metres. The Hay River discharges 3.6 billion cubic metres a year over the NWT border. (57)
Southern Alberta is drought prone and has few lakes. The worst drought was the “Dirty Thirties” but several occurred since. A dry 2001 almost led to turning off the irrigation taps for hundreds of farms in the Oldman River Basin. Thankfully enough licensees agreed to accept less than their entitlement so that all had some. (58) Without irrigation farming in many southern areas would be prohibitively risky.
Irrigation in Alberta dates back a century. Reservoirs now dot the landscape and giant centipede-like sprinklers are common sights. The 5% of Alberta farmland that is irrigated generates 20% of provincial agricultural output. Irrigation allows for diversification into potatoes, sugar beets, peas, beans, and mint. 30% of southern Alberta’s economic activity depends on irrigation. Rogers Sugar, McCain Foods, and Lamb Weston employ thousands processing the output of irrigated farms. The latter two companies recently sank $200 million into new facilities. Manufacturing, installing, and repairing irrigation equipment provides myriad business opportunities. Fifty southern Alberta municipalities draw water from the irrigation infrastructure as do most rural households. Irrigation reservoirs are recreational venues. Irrigation sustains 80,000 acres of wildlife habitat, and an additional 150,000 irrigated acres are used jointly for wildlife and livestock. (59)
Alberta Government’s total average annual water allocation is less than 10 billion cubic metres. Irrigation gets over 4 billion. Alberta’s 13 irrigation districts, which supply 1.35 million acres, typically divert 2.1 billion cubic metres a year. Their combined licenses entitle them to 3.4 billion cubic metres. (60) Scattered throughout the province another 300,000 acres is irrigated by independent operators.
The Red Deer, Bow, and Oldman Rivers rise south of the Columbia Ice Field and join to form the South Saskatchewan River which discharges 9 billion cubic metres a year over the Saskatchewan border. The South Saskatchewan River Basin (SSRB) is the water source for all 13 irrigation districts. The SSRB also supplies Calgary, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, and points in between. The South Saskatchewan, like all east-flowing rivers, is subject to an Accord compelling Alberta not to reduce flow by more than 50%.
While the SSRB is maxing out, and there is a moratorium on new allocations, many existing licensees still have a surplus. (61) In 2007 Taber Irrigation District amended its licence to set aside 10 million cubic metres for non-irrigation usages such as local industrial development. Lethbridge Northern and St Mary Districts also amended their licenses; but when Eastern District advertised its request to amend, Calgary-based enviro-groups mobilized resistance. (62)
With disputes and moratoria constraining the SSRB’s established water users, significant regional growth, rural or urban, seems out of the question. Alberta’s water engineers talk only of doing more with less. Two irrigation innovations, replacing canals with pipes and replacing field-flooding with pivoting sprinklers, have substantially improved efficiency by reducing seepage and evaporation. Still, a manager in Alberta Agriculture’s irrigation division warns of challenging times ahead for the SSRB adding: “I have never seen such a push on environmental issues over water.” (63)
In the 1960s and early 1970s the Alberta Government seriously considered schemes to divert northern river flow southward. Environmentalism’s rise ended public discussion of this option.
Water policy is inseparable from economic policy. Environmentalist “water governance” is part of a larger project aimed at “reshaping human governance to fit within ecological limits.” Environmentalists prefer “rain-fed agriculture.” They ask “why grow crops in areas where the ecosystems are not suited to them?” (64) Water governance is a form of “parallel governance”, which in social movement parlance means a network of private, ideologically-motivated organizations usurping state authority.
In 2001 a series of opaque “ideas group” meetings convinced Lorne Taylor (Alberta Environment Minister 2001-4) to launch a “consultation” into water governance. This consultation culminated in a June 2002 Environment Ministry Forum attended by 108 activists and experts. This Forum spawned an advisory panel later reconfigured into the Alberta Water Council. “Water for Life: Alberta’s Strategy for Sustainability” was unveiled in 2003. Standard policy goals of safe drinking water and adequate water for prosperity were supplemented with “sustainable development” and “healthy aquatic ecosystems.”
Alberta chapters of big enviro-groups like Sierra Club, River-keepers, and Ducks Unlimited have long nurtured local water-involved activist cells. Specialized movement orgs like Water Stewardship Grant Giving Council help upstart groups with funding and advice. Water for Life promotes public funding of such groups. There are now 40 Watershed Stewardship Groups. WSGs are eco-activist squads policing specific streams or lakes. More WSGs are on the way. WSGs dream of becoming Watershed Planning Advisory Councils. WPACs, as incorporated societies, attract greater funding and respect in water-use decision-making venues. Each river basin has a WPAC. There are 10 WPACs and more on the way.
The apex of Alberta’s parallel water ministry, the Alberta Water Council (AWC), is in its second year as a non-profit corporation at “arm’s length” from the provincial government. Alberta’s Environment Ministry officially relies on AWC for information and advice. AWC is headed by a Deputy Environment Minister and receives provincial funding. AWC reserves the right to solicit funds from other sources. AWC depends on 8,000 hours of free labour donated primarily by enviro-NGOs and Environment Ministry staff. AWC’s board has reps from the Sierra Club, Alberta Wilderness Association, Ducks Unlimited, Environmental Law Centre, WPAC collective, Alberta Lake Management Society, and Habitat Conservation Collective. There are token reps from farmers, ranchers, oil-people, and other business sectors but a pro-growth, pro-industry perspective is nowhere evident in AWC literature. (65)
AWC’s Water for Life manifestos (2003 & 2007) read like Greenpeace brochures. They preach ecological governance while avoiding specific prioritization of “environmental integrity” relative to human needs. Both manifestos are bobbing with catch-phrases like “healthy aquatic ecosystems,” “watershed stewardship” and “potential future water shortages.” The word “sustainable” appears up to seven times a page. Both explicitly state: “Alberta Government will manage Alberta’s water resource using the following management principles.” Both list the top two principles as: 1) “Albertans must recognize there are limits to the available water supply.” and 2) “Alberta’s water resource must be managed within the capacity of individual watersheds.” This precludes any discussion of diverting northern rivers.
A further example of water scarcity mythology is Karen Wilkie’s Balancing Act: Water Conservation and Economic Growth (2005) published by Canada West Foundation with funding from Gordon Foundation and an anonymous philanthropist. Wilkie hopes her work complements the Water for Life process. She wades in telling us “Canadian water is not infinite” and Alberta’s water shortage is approaching an “environmental crisis.” Her express goal is turning Alberta public opinion toward an embrace of conservation principles and an adaptation to fixed water supplies. Wilkie spares four lines on the northern river diversion option only to cast it down for it “does not address unsustainable patterns of water consumption” and because of its “negative ecological effects.” She notes water availability is a key limit on growth in southern Alberta.
Transfers between Alberta river basins are allowed only with specific legislative permission. Not only do environmentalists oppose even discussing this option, they now challenge the ecological correctness of the existing intra-basin transfers within the SSRB. Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner recently asked the AWC if moving water from one sub-basin to another is still acceptable.
Parallel governance rolls along. Milk River Watershed Council’s 2008 State of the Watershed Report prides itself in attaining agreement, in partnership with Alberta Agriculture and Alberta Environment, whereby Milk River licensees will install meters. (66) At AWC’s urging the Alberta Irrigation Projects Association is drafting a new Conservation Efficiency and Productivity Plan. (67)
(Environmentalists, never easy to appease, complain water-saving pipelines dry up the irrigation ditches upon which wild critters formerly relied.) AWC’s 2009 Review of Implementation Progress of Water for Life asserts that after five years of building partnerships and gathering information, now is the time to shift toward measurable on-the-ground reductions in use. AWC’s in-house research team, the Alberta Water Research Institute (headed by Lorne Taylor) has partnered with General Electric on a flagship $15 million water recycling project. (68) The Nature Conservancy is working on an initiative wherein wealthy environmentalists buy water licenses and permanently return the flow back to Nature.
An aqueduct from the southernmost bend of the Hay River and moving southeast so as to intersect the Peace, Athabasca, and North Saskatchewan Rivers before discharging into the Red Deer River would be 750 kilometres long. This aqueduct could intercept more than enough water to irrigate 100% of Alberta farms. Less ambitious projects could connect the Athabasca to the Red Deer (200 k) or the mighty Peace to the Red Deer (450 k). These would not be engineering experiments. The California Aqueduct carries water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the cities of south California – a distance of 1,151 kilometres. The trunk of the All American Canal carries 740 cubic metres a second of Colorado River water a distance of 132 kilometres through eight electric generators and branches into four lesser canals including one 196 kilometres long. The Colorado River Aqueduct is 389 kilometres long. The Central Arizona Project uses aqueducts and pipelines to move water 541 kilometres. These American aqueducts were built across far more formidable terrain than that found in central Alberta and they were built with 1960s technology.
Waste is in the eye of the beholder. Water used to cool a generator, irrigate a field, or brew a beer is soon returned to Earth’s great Hydrological Cycle. The water is not destroyed. To see water used in an inefficient way allegedly distresses some people. Pouring freshwater into the ocean or letting it evaporate from a lake is a greater waste. Use it or lose it. Conserving water is an economically irrational effort that simply increases the amount being evaporated or dumped at sea. The campaign is politically rational because the ulterior motive of the environmental movement is restricting economic growth. The brake pedal in southern Alberta is water.
Hydro, nuclear, and coal are the most economical methods of generating electricity. Each method has been vilified and obstructed by environmentalists. This is not a coincidence but different ecological rationales are used to oppose each method. The ecological debate is a trap. Ecologists are a mercenary pantheistic priesthood to whom all that has been changed by civilization is profane and all that is untouched is sacred. Environmentalists oppose cheap, abundant energy for political, not ecological, reasons. The real issues are whether humanity should continue industrializing and how rapidly; whether the frontier should be industrialized, how rapidly, and by whom. If the frontier is to be developed at a rapid rate, who benefits? ... who suffers? Environmentalists hold definite opinions on these issues but they are disinclined to open them for public discussion.
Alberta Water Council, Annual Report 2008.
Bakker, Karen Eau Canada, The Future of Canada’s Water, UBC Press, Vancouver 2007
Bakker, Karen. 2007. Governing: Canada’s Waters Wisely. (Eau Canada 2007)
Brandes, Oliver; Brooks, David; M’Gonicle Michael; Moving Water Conservation to Centre Stage (Eau Canada 2007)
Canadian Plains Research Center, The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, U of Regina, Regina Sask., 2005
Crutchfield, James. Economic Considerations Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Sept 1967
De Loe, Rob and Reid Kreutzwiser. Challenging the Status Quo: The Evolution of Water Governance in Canada
Francis, Daniel (ed). Encyclopedia of British Columbia, Harbour Publishing, Madeira Park, 2000
Ghassemi, F. & White, I; Inter-Basin Water Transfer; Cambridge University Press, 2007
Lasserre, Frederic. Drawers of Water: Water Diversion in Canada and Beyond (Eau Canada 2007)
Magill, Frank (ed). Great Events from History: Ancient & Medieval Series, Salem Press, New Jersey, 1972
Marsh, James (ed). The Canadian Encyclopedia, McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, 1999
Marsh, James (ed). The Junior Canadian Encyclopedia of Canada, Hurtig Pulbishers, Edmonton AB, 1990
Matthews, Cushla; Gibson, Robert, Mitchell, Bruce: Rising Waves, Old Charts, Nervous Passengers: Navigating toward a New Water Ethic (Eau Canada)
Muldoon, Paul and McClenaghan. A Tangled Web: Reworking Canada’s Water Laws (Eau Canada 2007)
Ostrom, Vincent. Political Feasibility, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Sept 1967
Pentland, Ralph and Adele Hurley. Thirsty Neighbours: A Century of Canada-US Transboundary Water Governance (Eau Canada 2007)
Schindler, David: Foreword (Eau Canada 2007)
Sewell, W.R. Pipedream or Practical Possibility Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Sept 1967
Sprague, John. Great Wet North? Canada’s Myth of Water Abundance (Eau Canada 2007)
Swihart, R. Lethbridge Herald, July 30, 2009, Alberta’s Investment is the envy of Montana farmers
Swihart, R. Lethbridge Herald, July 30, 2009, Water is the most important ingredient
Swihart, R Lethbridge Herald, July 30, 2009, Hope Springs Eternal
Taylor, Lorne. Water Challenges in Oil Sands country: Alberta’s Water for Life strategy. Policy Options, July-August 2009
The Europa World Yearbook 2008, Routledge, London, 2008
Tinney, E. R. Engineering Aspects Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Sept 1967
Turner, Barry (ed). The Statesman Yearbook 2009, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2008
Walkem, Ardith. The Land is Dry: Indigenous Peoples, Water, and Environmental Justice (Eau Canada 2007)
- Ghassemi, F. & White, I; Inter-Basin Water Transfer; Cambridge University Press, 2007 p 261-93
- Ibid p 264-8 see also Canadian Encyclopedia
- Ibid p 264
- Ibid p 204
- Pentland, Ralph and Adele Hurley. 2007. Thirsty Neighbours: A Century of Canada-US Transboundary Water Governance in: Bakker, Karen Eau Canada, The Future of Canada’s Water, UBC Press, Vancouver 2007
- Pentland see also www.sunbeltwater.com
- Muldoon, Paul and McClenaghan. 2007. A Tangled Web: Reworking Canada’s Water Laws and Lasserre, Frederic. 2007. Drawers of Water: Water Diversion in Canada and Beyond (in Eau Canada).
- Ghassemi p 291-2 see also Muldoon
- Ibid 272 see also Lasserre
- Statistics Canada
- Ghassemi p 292 see also Saskatchewan Encyclopedia and Europa World Book 2009
- Ibid p 275-6
- Bakker, Karen Eau Canada, The Future of Canada’s Water, UBC Press, Vancouver 2007 p 30
- Ghassemi p 276
- www.bchydro.com see also Canadian Encyclopedia
- www.opg.com and www.hydroone.com see also Canadian Encyclopedia
- www.hydro.mb.ca see also Canadian Encyclopedia
- www.hydroquebec.com see also Canadian Encyclopedia
- Tinney, Roy. Engineering Aspects Bulletin of Atomic Scientists
- Ghassemi p 286-9, and Tinney and Lasserre
- Crutchfield, James. Economic Considerations. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
- Ghassemi p 9-22
- Matthews, Cushla; Gibson, Robert, Mitchell, Bruce: Rising Waves, Old Charts, Nervous Passengers: Navigating toward a New Water Ethic (Eau Canada)
- De Loe, Rob and Reid Kreutzwiser. Challenging the Status Quo: The Evolution of Water Governance in Canada and Matthews (Eau Canada)
- Ghassemi p 31-4
- Ibid p 36
- Ibid p 22-3 see also World Commission Dams web-site
- Ibid xvi
- Ibid 212 see also Water 2025
- Ibid 273 see also Muldoon and Bakker
- Ibid 203-4 see also Pentland
- Muldoon and Bakker and Schindler
- Ghassemi p 273-5 and 292 and Statistics Canada
- Walkem, Ardith. 2007. The Land is Dry: Indigenous Peoples, Water, and Environmental Justice. (Eau Canada)
- Brandes, Oliver; Brooks, David; M’Gonicle Michael; Moving Water Conservation to Centre Stage (Eau Canada)
- www.hydroquebec.com and Canadian Encyclopedia
- www.hydroone.com and www.opg.com and Canadian Encyclopedia
- Lethbridge Herald, July 30, 2009, Ric Swihart. Hope Springs Eternal
- Taylor, Lorne. Water Challenges in Oil Sands country: Alberta’s Water for Life strategy. Policy Options, July-August 2009.
- Lethbridge Herald. July 30 2009, Ric Swihart. Hope Springs Eternal
- Lethbridge Herald July 30, 2009 Ric Swihart. Water is the Most Important Ingredient.
- Alberta Water Council, Annual Report 2008.
- Lethbridge Herald, July 30, 2009, Ric Swihart. Hope Springs Eternal