Drought Solution?

We’ve all been bombarded with the drought situation plagueing several regions of our country, but have seen little progress being made to solve it other than conservation measures.

Considering the task of the Alaska oil pipeline was finished, why can’t we repeat this project to deliver water to needed areas, siphoning off our major rivers?

A couple of drawbacks come to mind.

  1. The water pipeline might have to be bigger (wider) than the Alaskan pipeline. I expect that the amount of water consumed by a multi-state region is greater than the amount of oil being pumped.

  2. It would be hard to justify the cost of the pipeline since it wouldn’t be in use all the time - only during droughts. Also, I expect there’s less profit in water than in oil.

  3. You’d probably have to treat the water, especially if you want to make it drinkable. I think water from wells and reservoirs is cleaner than river water.

  4. Pumping that much water would have a huge environmental impact on the river and downstream areas. It might also affect shipping and industry, depending on which river we’re talking about. And I don’t know how many areas have huge quantities of water to spare.

I’m not saying it couldn’t be done. In fact, water is piped fairly long distances in some parts of the country. I just don’t think that it wouldn’t be economically feasible in many cases. IMHO.

Moving huge quantities of water from Point A to Point B can be done, and has. But not on a whim, and not without huge cost and sometimes damage on a massive scale. Every gallon taken to Point B is a gallon no longer available at Point A; that’s permanent, and it’s only a start…

Spend some time researching the monumental efforts made to supply water to the Los Angeles area. Before the water came, LA was a little shit town in a natural desert, and San Francisco was the “big city” in California. (heresiarch, you’ll find that piping water can indeed be very much as profitable as piping oil, if not more so!)

I guess the bottom line is that a temporary drought in a particular area would probably end before any serious water-moving could get done. Impacts aside, it would likely come too late.

By siphon, I assume you mean pipe the water from one region to another? If I’m assuming right, then:

  1. The pipe needed to carry enough water to meet the needs of an entire region of the USA would have to be kinda big.

  2. Even if the above would work, few people are willing to give away their water supplies, especially since the predictions that the entire U.S. will have water shortages eventually.

Lately the subject has been in the news because of the problems between California and Nevada; they both need the water from the Colorado River. California hopes to build desalination plants to fix the problem, but they are somewhat inefficient and expensive.

You have to be VERY careful with water management. Good chunks of central Asia have gotten completely demolished because the Soviets were sloppy with water management, causing desertification and changing local weather patterns a great deal.

Just getting the water into Los Angeles is a monumental task - the California Aqueduct alone is kinda frightening, and more than that, the water we get from the Colorado River has been criticized as long as I can remember for having a detrimental effect downstream (partly in screwing Mexico, partly in the ecology of the Colorado River itself)… and there have recently been talks of cutting off some of that supply and/or raising costs for imported water.

When I grew up in LA, it was in drought conditions. Using a hose to clean the sidewalk or even wash a car was unthinkable, and showers were timed. People here have gotten quite sloppy since then.

And another problem with a desalination plant in Los Angeles is that most of our coastal waters are friggin’ filthy.

“with a desalination plant in Los Angeles is that most of our coastal waters are friggin’ filthy.”

How did that come about? What did they do with all the extra salt?

It could be done in a regional or modular manner that wouldn’t have to be as mammoth an undertaking as the Alaskian pipeline. It could tap into the existing “grid” of waterlines…just like the electrical power grid could be substantially supplemented by solar assist and wind projects - giving us cheap, and virtually free, energy. The mechanical engineers KNOW it can be done!

It would put engineers and technicians back to work. It could stop our belly-aching for rain when the earth’s only (wink, wink) about 2/3 water, anyhow! It should be a Federally subsidized project, but, alas, the bean counters rule the earth…same thing with being free from OPEC. But, heaven forbid we help ourselves and work together as aunified nation and one USA team - Jinx

P.S.: Remember The Challenger, Apollo 1, even Love Canal…and blame the bean counters for stifling our engineers and good ole USA ingeniuity. Let’s snuff out that spark of innovation before it spreads, you know!

Photo evidence. Since the 1960s, the Aral Sea has shrunk to about half its former area and not much more than a quarter of its former volume.

Some points:

  • You can work on irrigation projects whether the Alaska pipeline in in operation or not – they are not related.
  • Most major rivers have population along them and see significant use. Users are not likely to be complacent about the diversion of large amounts of water.
  • Exacerbating this is the fact that in areas where water is short, available supplies are generally well tapped. For example, very little of the “mighty” Colorado River makes it to the ocean these days. So you won’t tend to find many major rivers with excess flow very near to drought areas.
  • To deliver water at prices people are happy to pay, you generally need an ample supply of water whose elevation is above that of the recipients, so it will flow downhill. Having to pump it can increase costs a lot.

Right, thanks for the cite, Flodnak… I take stuff like that for granted. My favorite paper in university was on water management and agrarian reform in central Asia. :wink:

In any case, we have to be very careful. The environment can be very delicate, and moving around large quantities of water can utterly destroy both the water source and change the region it is brought to. It is a process repeated all over the world in arid climates - and LA is just extending further into the desert.

I have never been in LA proper, but I was once in Pasadena and I saw someone hosing down his driveway, to my utter astonishment. I didn’t say anything, but I’m sure that if I had, his answer would have been along the lines of, “I pay for my water and if I want to hose down my driveway, that is nobody’s business but mine.” There was a similar letter a propos SUVs in the latest Consumer Reports (it was a complaint about CU’s “political” stance on SUVs). So I say, just raise the price of water till people conserve since that seems to be the only politically acceptable method. And gas too, while you’re at it.

Of course, one of the major agrivating conditions for long term drought is when the local politicians start enforcing a carwashing ban. If they would just let people go ahead and wash their cars, Murphy’s Law would kick in, and bring rain in short order.

My brother’s done a lot of work on the Aral Sea project. The Former Russians dammed the river leading into it, in hopes of irrigating the land between the dam and the sea. The shoreline receded, and the former sea-bed was now dry land, heavily dosed with salt (it being a sea and all…). The off-shore wind blew the salt inland, onto the very land that was being irrigated, rendering it salty as well.

One of the bits used in various sci-fi stories (Oath of Fealty) involved towing an iceberg south, wrapping it in plastic, and harvesting the melted ice. Probably impractical in the extreme.

I want to stress the point that places with water really, really, will not ever allow in any circumstances their water to be shipped off to another region. Oregonians have been quite adament about not letting California have any water from the Columbia for decades. If Oregon was forced to allow water to be shipped south, it would start an actual civil war.

Also, pipes like the Alaskan pipline are miniscule compared to irrigation canals I have been around. And those provide relatively small amounts of water to small regions.

California could solve its water problems instantly by limiting slightly how much water gets sprayed on pasturage. Politics is the issue, not water supplies.

Not entirely true. Most of the water used in California agriculture is recycled water. The California Aqueduct goes across 300 miles of farmland to LA. <mode=“Californian” style=“arrogant”>In any case, California’s agriculture is more productive than the whole of Oregon.</mode>


The real wastes are things like - I have no cite for it, so take it with a lump - an article I read on the drought where a country club/resort/golf course was using more water than the city it was located in - during the worst drought conditions they’d faced. Water is wasted in a lot of ways.