The Abandoned Plan That Could Have Saved America From Drought

The North American Water and Power Alliance was an audacious proposal to divert water to parched western states that would have cost hundreds of billions of dollars and pissed off Canada. But what if it had worked?

“It’s both a monument to the ingenuity of America and a monument to the folly of the 20th century.”

Ralph Parsons. Courtesy of Ralph M. Parsons Foundation
A newspaper ad for NAWAPA.
A brochure for NAWAPA

NAWAPA would turn the Southwest into an oasis and the Great Basin into productive farmland.

NAWAPA model from the Parsons archive. Courtesy Parsons

Laying pipe and pouring concrete is simpler — and more politically attractive — than changing human behavior with rules and incentives.

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Valero Doval for BuzzFeed News

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Michelle Nijhuis

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Writer @NatGeoMag, blogger @NewYorker, consigliere @HighCountryNews. Proud mom @girlbilbo.

BuzzFeed Collections

Our home on Medium for BuzzFeed Collections — curated packages of our best feature stories and essays.