Five Reasons the U.S. Won't Shut off Water from Colorado

Many critics of the Yes California campaign say if California were to secede, the United States would cut off our supply of water from the Colorado River. Of course if the United States did that, the $50 billion on average we currently spend annually subsidizing the old Confederacy - but that would be kept in California after independence - would certainly allow us to do industrial scale desalination. We are more than capable of meeting our own water needs if we focus our energies and resources here at home. Even so, Yes California argues it is unlikely the United States would deprive California of water from the Colorado River Basin, some of which is geographically within California's borders anyway, and this post explains five reasons why. 

There are a number of issues to consider when deciding whether or not that California would, as a result of its independence, automatically lose access to one of our primary sources of water: the Colorado River. Here are five reasons why Yes California disagrees with the sentiment that the United States would stop water allocations to California.

  1. Yes California's plan for obtaining independence from the United States employs a peaceful and constitutional strategy. That means our independence will come through the consent of Congress and the consent of at least three-fourths of the states. In other words, the Americans won't be out to punish California for seceding from the Union after they've just granted their consent for us to do so. In truth, an independent California will be the realization of Thomas Jefferson's prediction that Americans would settle the west coast and split away from the United States as a separate nation.

  2. When California becomes a separate nation, many U.S. citizens residing in California at the time will likely choose to remain citizens of the United States and continue to vote in American elections. The United States will certainly have an interest in ensuring continued access to water for millions of its citizens living here. 

  3. Yes California's plan for life after independence includes a Military Base Agreement whereby the United States will keep its military bases in California over some period of time in exchange for a land lease. Many of these military bases are located in Southern California which imports much of its water from the Colorado River. The United States will need California to continue importing this water to support their military presence here.

  4. California is the source of about 20% of Americans' dairy products, and the sole producer of America's almonds, artichokes, dates, figs, grapes, raisins, kiwifruit, olives, pistachios, pomegranates, sweet rice, and walnuts. Because of California's unique Mediterranean climate and geography, this is the only place in North America where many of these staple foods can be grown. The United States will need us to continue importing its water so that our farmers can continuing growing and shipping these foods to supermarkets across the continent where they are in demand. California will need to meet this market demand so American consumers can continue buying these food items at or near their current prices. That gives California significant leverage in ensuring our access to water from the Colorado River.

  5. The United States and Mexico signed a pact in 2012 to grant Mexico access to more water from the Colorado River Basin (in the midst of the California drought, mind you), amending an existing treaty on Mexico's access to Colorado River water dating back to 1944. There is a treaty between the United States and Canada on the diversion of water from the Niagara River for power generation. The United States makes pacts with its neighboring countries to deal with water issues and an independent California will likewise forge binding international treaties governing fair use and access to water from rivers originating in the United States. What more simple trade is there than "Food for Water"? 

In short, there is no reason to expect the United States to treat us as an enemy instead of an ally.

For the pessimists, however, it's worth pointing out that Israel has a much drier climate than California and they do a tremendous job supplying their people with water through a combination of technologies. In fact, Israeli engineers helped California build the largest seawater desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere in Carlsbad, which just opened last year. Certainly California can and has learned from Israel's successes, and if the Americans bit off their nose to spite their face by denying California access to the Colorado River, we could utilize a number of strategies to preserve our way of life.