The Bog

The Bog is where thoughts, opinions, discussion pieces, and action converge. Influential thinkers from the water community are invited to share their insights on current or controversial water topics. Please note that the views expressed herein are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Alberta WaterPortal.

Water Exports

Opinion by Tom Huffaker, U.S. Consul General


As a Californian, I have always known that fresh water is a natural resource that can quickly pass from apparent plenty to scarcity in Western North America. As a Northern Californian, I was weaned on the resentment between the relatively water-rich north and the arid south, to which much Northern water is shipped.

During the droughts of the late 1970s, I lived through water rationing and brown lawns in metered Northern California and experienced frustration as parts of un-metered Southern California kept its lawns green with “our” water. While the “heroic” California civil engineering projects of an earlier era that transferred artificial rivers from North to South yielded real benefits for homeowners, farmers and consumers, they came with very real environmental costs. As a law student in California, I also learned that the way we allocated river water in the American West (prior use doctrine), differed from the eastern approach and is fraught with challenges as populations rose and our economy evolved from farming to a diverse agricultural-industrial-services-technology base.

With this experience with Western water scarcity I arrived in Calgary in mid-2007 to serve as U.S. Consul General in a region engaged in its own water debates.

Let me put it plainly, contrary to persistent rumors, the United States Government does NOT seek and has never sought trans-boundary bulk water transfers from Canada. Nor have I ever seen an economically viable concept for large scale water transfers. We recognize that we have water scarcity and inefficient use problems of our own and that we must solve with our own water resources. We also fully recognize that each country must find its own means of managing those resources.