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An Environmental Question

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An Environmental Question
March 28, 2009 10:35PM
This isn't specific to Yosemite, but in a way it touches on it.

I've wanted to ask this question for a long time, but I thought the answer must be so obvious that to ask it was just asking for ridicule. But, hey, I've been humbled on this site before, so what's one more time?

So here goes: Living near the Mississippi River and seeing all the flooding near Fargo, ND this week (the Red River 22+ feet above flood stage), I've always wondered why we couldn't solve a lot of national problems (including floods and drought) with an "Interstate Highway" of aqueducts. We have natural gas lines that pipe gas all over the country; why not a system to pipe water?

Too much water in Fargo? No problem...open the valve to Austin, TX and solve their drought problem. Farmers in the San Fernando Valley need water...sure, send them some from water-soaked St. Louis. No more flooding, no more droughts, food growing where we never knew it could grow...well, you get the idea. Almost like a national irrigation system.

Sure, it would cost almost as much as an AIG bailout, but the billions of dollars lost to floods, lost or diminished crops, increased food costs, etc. could be eliminated by such a Manhattan Project. No more need for flood insurance. No more need for drought insurance for farmers. Vegetables for (almost) free!

You could store excess water in reservoirs built throughout the country.

If we can pave millions of miles between every large city and small town in America, why couldn't a system of aqueducts be built alongside these same highways? The system could be built with check valves so that if there was a break due to an earthquake or other disaster, water could be shut off until that section was fixed. You wouldn't even need a road to every town. Just a large enough network to get the water to and from the regions where it was needed.

Okay, I know there must be an easy explanation why this is not feasible. I assure you, I have not been drinking heavily. Or even lightly. But every time I see people filling sandbags like they did in Fargo this week (and surely along the Mississippi in weeks to come), I always wonder why that water couldn't be pumped to where it is needed. I imagine for every place that experiences disastrous flooding there is another place in the 48 states that could use that water. I'm sure the energy needed to pump the water would be considerable. But the energy would only be needed in those areas that have excess water to send it where the water is needed.

Let the ridicule begin. (I'm still trying to calculate Celsius vs. Fahrenheit!) But at least some of the very smart people on this forum can quickly tell me what I'm missing. If we can go to Mars (someday), you might think we could figure out a feasible, cost-effective way to build the Interstate Aqueduct System. Heck, the Romans did it a couple of Ms ago.





Bill
avatar Re: An Environmental Question
March 28, 2009 11:52PM
wbmyosemite: I assure you, I have not been drinking heavily. Or even lightly.

My condolences winking smiley

I will have to read this a few times and comment a bit later (FF is waiting with anticipation winking smiley

B
avatar Re: An Environmental Question
March 29, 2009 07:19AM
I know nothing about this, but, hey that never stopped me before.
I am not saying it won't work but the managemet of water is not strictly analogous to traffic management for at least the following reasons:

1. Most water management moves water based on elevation changes. Irrigation projects require/depend on moving water from high to low elevation. Even those projects like moving water over the mountains to Los Angeles, have, I believe, a siphon system at least partially. To move water from low to high, requires energy (usually on earth from the sun). But if there was a need and an energy supply, this might be an option.

2. Interestingly, some of the problems with flooding stem from attempts at flood control. On the Mississippi, specifically, the levee system has forced water to go vertical rather than horizontal (onto prescribed flood plains and basins). I don't know if that is the problem with the Red River in North Dakota.

3. Aquaducts or open sources of water represent "national security" problems for the obvious reasons.

4. Water management demands a "cheap" solution. As it is a commodity product, if it became much more expensive by including transportation costs it would have a profound impact on the economy and society. Nevertheless, I heard somewhere that Canada has 25% of THE WORLD's fresh water. Maybe there will be a water pipeline or aquaduct to the US, using your idea.





The cure for a fallacious argument is a better argument, not the suppression of ideas.
-- Carl Sagan
avatar Re: An Environmental Question
March 29, 2009 09:56AM
Frank Furter wrote:

> I know nothing about this, but, hey that never stopped me
> before.
> I am not saying it won't work but the managemet of water is not
> strictly analogous to traffic management for at least the
> following reasons:
>
> 1. Most water management moves water based on elevation
> changes. Irrigation projects require/depend on moving water
> from high to low elevation. Even those projects like moving
> water over the mountains to Los Angeles, have, I believe, a
> siphon system at least partially. To move water from low to
> high, requires energy (usually on earth from the sun). But if
> there was a need and an energy supply, this might be an option.

If you could do it, there aren't exactly way to do this without unintended or undesirable consequences. There are threatened/endangered species in our rivers that need adequate amounts of water in order to survive. If you start tapping into this source of water for "emergency" flood control, the water customers might demand that it be tapped in dry years although that could be further detrimental to the wildlife in the river.

> 2. Interestingly, some of the problems with flooding stem from
> attempts at flood control. On the Mississippi, specifically,
> the levee system has forced water to go vertical rather than
> horizontal (onto prescribed flood plains and basins). I don't
> know if that is the problem with the Red River in North Dakota.
>
> 3. Aquaducts or open sources of water represent "national
> security" problems for the obvious reasons.

The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is considered a "national security risk".

> 4. Water management demands a "cheap" solution. As it is a
> commodity product, if it became much more expensive by
> including transportation costs it would have a profound impact
> on the economy and society. Nevertheless, I heard somewhere
> that Canada has 25% of THE WORLD's fresh water. Maybe there
> will be a water pipeline or aquaduct to the US, using your
> idea.

Canada might have that kind of fresh water in the form of glaciers and ice sheets. The problem would be extraction and the impact of trying to destroy
something like that.

avatar Re: An Environmental Question
March 29, 2009 02:41PM
Bill,

My two cents on this in respect to rivers flooding is the same as it is in respect to coastal damage to homes in hurricane zones. Some of us humans persist in building and/or rebuilding in zones categorized as flood prone. You could not pay me enough money to live on flat land near a major river or on a coastal sand dune. It's just stupid. Unfortunately, we have numerous communities that were built a century ago when not much thought was given to such possibilites. These communities have grown over the years and carry the inertia of simply existing alongside these disaster time bombs. The best defense against these kinds of disasters is not be where they tend to occur.

As for diverting water resources from plentiful areas to those prone to drought, I agree that perhaps some of this has merit. I'm more inclined to believe that solar and wind power should be used for salt water desalinization plants and then pipe the water to traditional drought areas. Yes, it would be almost prohibitively expensive but there's lots of water in the ocean.

Jim



Post Edited (03-29-09 14:42)
avatar Re: An Environmental Question
March 29, 2009 03:29PM
>Unfortunately, we have numerous communities that were built a century ago when not much thought was given to such possibilites. These communities have grown over the years and carry the inertia of simply existing alongside these disaster time bombs.<

My impression is that older communities were built in flood protected areas and it is the new development that tends to occur in former flood plains. For example, almost the entire new development in the Sacramento area north of the city is on ag land that is levee "protected" and subject to flooding if the Sacramento river levees fail.
Another example: Most of the significant damage in New Orleans occured in the "newer" sections. Older sections were relatively protected.





The cure for a fallacious argument is a better argument, not the suppression of ideas.
-- Carl Sagan
avatar Re: An Environmental Question
March 29, 2009 05:25PM
Frank,

In regareds to the midwest I think many of the cities subject to flooding today were originally trading ports when the rivers themselves served as a primary method of transporting goods rather than over land. No doubt other areas such as you have mentioned were built later by stupid developement practices.

Some years ago I worked for awhile for a deck & screen porch builder here in Raleigh. I will never forget the deck I designed and sold to a couple living in a brand new developement in Durham, NC. After materials were delivered we discovered we could not build the deck because one corner of it was within a 50-year flood plain. This was 12' from the house! Bottom line: Part of the lots in this housing developement were in an area expected to flood in a 50-year probability storm. How these homes could get approval while the deck could not is astounding. It meant that the homes themselves were at threat for anything more serious than a 50-year probability storm. Only developement politics and greed can allow dumb things like this but it goes on all the time.

On the NC Outer Banks there are a multitude of multi-million dollar 4-story "beach cottages" built on sand dunes only a few feet from the high water mark. These are primary targets for every hurricane that rolls through. Insurance rates for the rest of the state have to subsidize the rates on these beachfront palaces that keep getting hammered every year yet they go on building them. Don't get me started on beach sand replenishment.

Jim
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