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Dribs and Drabs: Western United States and Canadian Responses to Water Scarcity

Arlene J. Kwasniak, Alastair R. Lucas, Proceedings of 53rd Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (2007)

[1] Water Scarcity in the Western United States and Western Canada
Water scarcity in the western United States is no secret. This is particularly so in the southwest. According to USA Today, in 2007 California and Nevada reported the driest June to May period since 1924.1 The Colorado River, which supplies water to 30 million people in seven states and Mexico, and the Lake Mead and Lake Powell reservoirs, are only half full and are unlikely to recover for years.2 What might be more surprising is the fact of water scarcity in western Canada, in particular Alberta. Canada is touted as a freshwater rich country, trailing only behind Brazil, Russia, and China, and holding between 6-9% and 20% of the world's supply.3 However, the dry western prairie provinces (British Columbia east of the Rocky Mountains, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and western Manitoba) do not share in much of this water. They are the driest provinces in southern Canada4 with Alberta [16-3] being the most vulnerable to water shortages.5 Moreover, while 80% of Alberta's freshwater supply is found in the northern reaches of the province, 80% of water demand is in the south.6 Because of Alberta's water situation, this chapter will focus on that province for purposes of comparing the Canadian response to water scarcity with that of the western U.S. states.
Water is particularly scarce in southern Alberta. Accordin