Sunday, September 07, 2014

Solution to the California water shortage

I believe this is a solution to water problems for the entire Southwest region of the United States. Build pipelines from the Great Lakes to the Southwest. If anybody knows why this wouldn't work, speak up. I don't know much about pipelines, but I know that we already have a lot of them, and we're really good at making and maintaining them. People have been good at this since Roman times.

Is there enough water in the Great Lakes region? I don't know. All I know is that in addition to the lakes, anywhere in that region you can sink a well 15-feet into the ground and have unlimited fresh drinking water. Nothing is truly unlimited, but I believe that region is as close to unlimited as we can hope. Minnesota license plates say 10,000 lakes, but the USGS says they have 23,000. I checked. The place is drowning in fresh water. Now throw in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and the rest. Towing massive icebergs from Antarctica to Los Angeles may not be feasible, nor desalination plants, but I think pipelines from a waterlogged Upper Midwest is doable.

For starters, here's proof that the general concept of pipelines is sound, even over long distances. The pic below shows current pipelines running across the USA.

Most of the pipelines in the image are for fossil fuels, and a few convey water. Living in California, I'm very aware of the Mulholland Aquaduct, built in the 1930s, if my memory is correct. It is a pipeline that runs from the Hoover Dam in Nevada to Los Angeles, then branches off to San Diego. At the end of the line, San Diego gets 1/3 of their fresh water from this pipeline. I believe this proves that water pipelines work.

To my limited knowledge of pipelines, the only problem is funding. If this is true, I think the cost of building a few pipelines from the Great Lakes to the Southwest would be relatively low, considering that several Southwest States, plus contributing money from the federal government, would be pooled. Also, tech companies lately, especially Google, have been doing public works for a long time, like hyperfast internet. I realize they're looking at things from a profit standpoint, but from a PR standpoint, I'm guessing it would be good business for a consortium to arise: Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Intel, Apple, and a few others could fund half of the pipeline, and reap the PR rewards. If they made the offer, I think the affected states and the fed would respond and get the project done.

If corporations, plus maybe a few individual fatcats like Buffet and Gates and Ellison, came onboard, they could offer their financial contributions in terms of an unenforcable social contract: "We'll supply half of the money in exchange for you, the people of the Southwest, to be good citizens and learn about how to conserve water, every day, and apply that knowledge immediately." The corporations involved could even be inspired to develop new technology to conserve water -- better low-flow toilets, water reclamation systems designed for household use, etc.

On the topic of individual fatcats, here you go:

Bill Gates net worth: $79 billion
Larry Ellison: $45 billion
Paul Allen: $16 billion
George Soros: $26 billion
Warren Buffet: $65 billion

With that list in mind, and the wealth, how big are the problems we need to solve, and how much will they cost? I understand that, from a global standpoint, malaria is a much bigger problem than allowing Los Angeles people to continue hand-washing their $104,000 Teslas and over-watering a postage stamp-sized parcel of green grass. On the other hand, do we wait until nothing happens when the tap is turned on? I like a morning shower, and if these fatcats, plus corporations and government, get together to keep that happening, I'll show my appreciation in my portfolio of stocks and government bonds. I may even omit a legal tax deduction or two. (Not likely because government is a disease.)

I bring all this up because I see this as a viable solution, until I'm shown otherwise, to a problem that is, by all accounts, grave. If global warming is real, and if it's going to make problems like the Southwest water shortage even worse over time, then I believe the time is now to consider unconventional partnerships for solving the problem. It could be used as a model elsewhere, around the world, too. If nothing else, public-private partnerships are already common. In other words, I'm not presenting something born of genius, and it's not even unprecedented. Since I'm rambling now, I believe that non-tech companies who have bought into the hoo-haw of "social responsibility" would be willing to join the consortium: Starbucks comes to mind. As much as I criticize Starbucks, they offer most of their employees health insurance and tuition reimbursement at Arizona State University. They did that in part because of altruism and social responsibility, but also because it pushes up the stock price. What could possibly push up stock prices more than joining a consortium that can, and will, forever solve water problems in the United States?

What are we waiting for? Instead of discussing this, people in Southern California are getting tickets for washing cars in their own driveways, and for watering lawns. Not discussing pipelines connecting places with unlimited fresh water to states that are dangerously low makes me think there's some great flaw with the pipeline idea, but I can't see what that flaw might be. Who knows about this stuff? Who can tell me I'm an idiot and should just shut up about it? I will, but first I need to know why.


Anonymous said...

This is why it's not done.

Under the belief that water could dilute any substance, industries and individuals during the 18th and 19th centuries often used rivers and lakes as garbage cans. Industrial effluent, raw sewage and animal carcasses would often be dumped into waterways, without much thought of contamination and downstream neighbors.

This practice started changing in the 20th century as people became aware of the importance of clean water to health. However, as more industries and people moved into the Great Lakes region, the more the rivers and lakes became polluted. Today, pollutants enter the Great Lakes in many different ways, but the main three entryways of pollutants are point source, nonpoint source and atmospheric pollution.

Tons more to read WHY your idea is blindly ignorant.

Anonymous said...

Well, I didn't expect you to "approve" my post. But then I knowtist there are no comments allowed!
The crap you post is either 1. No one comments or 2. You do not allow comments on your blogs.

The Shaved Ape said...

For the record: I never disapprove comments unless they're spam. Also, I attended a water conference in Southern California last fall and ran my idea by several governmental water experts. The U.S. ones, mostly from the Southwest, were too busy to speak with me, unfortunately. Three different ones from Canada said my idea is sound. One said, and this is an exact quote: "This is the obvious solution, and it will happen eventually. The only problem is getting over the Rocky Mountains, but we can solve it with pumping stations."

The guy also said that SoCal is pursuing desalination plants is a bad idea, but not for the reasons I expected. The plants are expensive and don't produce a whole lot of potable water, which is why I think they're bad. This guy said they're bad because after fighting off environmental lawsuits and conducting environmental studies, the plants are built 15 years after they're designed. By then, the technology is improved greatly, and an old, inefficient plant is constructed.

Food for thought.