Andy McKay

Oct 17, 2010

Water in Canada

The other week some friends and I were having a conversation over beer in the pub. The topic veered to the US invading Canada. So, just to reiterate, it's a conversation in a pub, not to be taken too seriously. The conversation went through the how, why and where phases quite quickly.

How? Well that would be pretty simple. The Canadian nationalist in our midst did point out that there's been one US - Canada war already - and we won. Most of us expected a different result in a re-match.

Why? We've got lots of oil and water. Enuf' said... maybe.

Where? We figured Alberta for the oil and BC for the water. Or perhaps that's just a western bias.

Then these articles appeared. So I decided to do a bit of research. My nave view was that two of the major rivers, the Mississippi and the Columbia tributaries are in Canada and as such there is a possible source of conflict. As it turns out that may not be the case.

The Mississippi is a huge river basin encompassing a large portion of the US, but it's official basin does not stretch much into Canada.

The Columbia stretches into Canada a bit (PDF) - based on the excellent information here.

Interestingly the Colorado watershed which feeds most of Las Vegas and California is based mostly on the water coming out of Colorado, Wyoming and southern Utah. This watershed is running low at the moment after 11 years of drought with problems for Las Vegas and California.

Things aren't anywhere near as bad as Gaza but with global warming, we can be reasonably sure that the amount of water in the US won't be increasing. So in 10, 20 years time, where are they going to look?

According to some we don't have a huge amount of water.

Another common myth is that we have more water than the USA. Again, the numbers dispel the myth. The runoff per unit area in the two countries is almost identical.

If we have the same amount of run off per unit area, a few points raise their heads 1) Canada's population is 1/10th of the size, so per capita we have a lot more to and a lot more to spare 2) with global warming this is likely to change.

So would the US invade Canada for it's water? Who knows - that's a topic for another pub conversation.