Here's an idea: Instead of an endless, inert wall along the U.S.–Mexico border, line the boundary with 2,000 miles of natural gas, solar and wind power plants. Use some of the energy to desalinate water from the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean and ship it through pipelines to thirsty towns, businesses and new farms along the entire border zone. Hire hundreds of thousands of people from both countries to build and run it all. Companies would make money and provide security to safeguard their assets. A contentious, costly no-man's-land would be transformed into a corridor of opportunity.
Crazy? Maybe—or maybe not. History is full of ideas that initially sounded wacky yet ended up changing society.
The idea is more than a pipe dream. A consortium of 27 engineers and scientists from a dozen U.S. universities has developed a plan. Last week they delivered it to three U.S. representatives and one senator. "Let's put the best scientists and engineers together to create a new way to deal with migration, trafficking—and access to water. These are regions of severe drought," says Luciano Castillo, a professor of energy and power at Purdue University who leads the group. "Water supply is a huge future issue for all the states along the border in both countries."