But a story by Mark Hume in the Globe and Mail illustrates the delicacies of transboundary water questions, and by coincidence is one of two interesting examples of the problem that scrolled across my monitor this morning.
Hume’s story details objections by residents of British Columbia to a dam being contemplated in Washington state that has the potential to back up water across the border to the north:
The Shanker’s Bend project, proposed by the Okanogan County Public Utility District, would dam the Similkameen River just a few kilometres south of the B.C. border.
The project would provide increased water storage and hydro generation for the town of Oroville, in north central Washington, but it would also back up water deep into the Similkameen Valley – flooding the habitat of endangered species in an area that has been proposed as a national park.
Meanwhile, halfway around the world, Iraq’s minister of water resources complains that Turkey is failing to live up to its commitments to allow water to flow down the Euphrates:
“Because of the reservoirs and dams which are built in Turkey, our share of water has decreased drastically,” Rashid explained. “The middle and south of Iraq are suffering a severe drought, and now it is the season of agriculture, but we don’t have sufficient water to have our agriculture plans implemented.”
The flow from the Euphrates River to Iraq is currently 230 cubic meters per second, and the agreement with Turkey stipulated an increase in flow of up to 360 cubic meters per second.
If one was obsessed with economic principles and the notion of market failures in everything, one might note that we have two examples here of externalities, complicated by the transboundary separation of the economic actors who benefit from a particular water infrastructure, and the economic actors who are harmed.