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woodcutter's avatar

Would building a kind of national aquaduct be practical?

Asked by woodcutter (16249 points ) August 24th, 2012

I got to thinking that if we can build a pipeline from Alaska and possibly one from Canada someday for oil, why not one or several from extremely flood prone areas to the traditionally drought prone areas in the country? It would be able to siphon away the flood waters reducing damage and pump it westward where it could be put to use.

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16 Answers

ETpro's avatar

Great question. I was thinking about the same thing when the wildfires and the dustbowl conditions and crop losses hit. I mean, we can borrow money right now at near zero interest. With the financial uncertainty in other areas, some are willing to park money in the US and actually pay us to hold it for them. We could put a huge number of skilled construction workers back on the job solving our water distribution problems. And we’d end up with a world class piece of infrastructure that would continue to support prosperity in America for a century or more to come.

It’s not like it’s leading edge technology we’re talking about here. It’s only national will to put people back to work and in doing so, fix an ever-growing problem that is stopping us. They knew how to do this stuff 2,200 years ago in ancient Rome.

zenvelo's avatar

So you end up with the problem Northern California has with all its water being re-directed to the Central Valley and Los Angeles: a lowering of the water table and a lack of flow in riparian settings that affect a variety of species.

ETpro's avatar

@zenvelo Technical challenges that have technical solutions. Water covers three fourths of the planet’s surface, and more if you count ice caps. It’s hardly in short supply.

woodcutter's avatar

I suppose it could be bi directional depending on how the weather behaves.Doesn’t seem hard to do. If it would work for oil then water is doable. I suppose where it goes could be hammered out but just the getting it away from the places that are going underwater quickly, saving property and infrastructure. Probably would take decades to finish.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Oil pipelines are economically viable for two main reasons:
1) There is a constant demand for the oil product. Pipelines are sized for the constant flow.
2) Crude oil sells for $2–2.50/gallon

Now let’s compare this with the proposed water pipeline
1) Floods and disasters are transient. The pipeline would need to be huge to handle the spurts of high volume flow.
2) Where I live, water costs $ 2.75 per 1000 gallons. Where’s the profit motive?

Intellectually it seems like the right thing to do but you’d be hard pressed to get Exxon Mobil to fund it.

rooeytoo's avatar

There is constant discussion about this in Australia because each year the entire top end turns into a giant flood plain. Often the rest of the country is dry as its name (the sun burned country) implies. Here though the distance it would have to travel is so great, nothing ever seems to come of it, just more talk.

JLeslie's avatar

Is there a part of the US that is in a constant state of flood? Droughted and dry states do want to build pipelines from the Great Lakes, and states like Michigan say no way! It’s a big deal this water rights, fresh water thing. The Great Lakes states feel like they suffer through the winters, but one plus is they will always have is fresh water, and water is a huge commodity. People/companies do “steal” it out of the lakes. I think Nestle was accused of it a while back, not sure what was proven about the accusation. A Michigander would ask, why are people builiding houses and commercial businesses where there is not enough water to supply the needs of the population? It is their choice to knowingly expand a city that will have constant water problems.

josie's avatar

People may be are assuming that one region’s resource is community property to benefit those who do not have it. I think that might be a subject for debate. How and how much are people who get the water going to pay for it.

LuckyGuy's avatar

We get ~100 inches of snow annually. I’ll gladly give it to some hot, parched climate region if they pay the shipping and handling.

flutherother's avatar

They have looked at establishing a national water grid in the UK to transfer water from the rainy north to the drought prone south but have concluded that for now it is too expensive. The scale of a similar project in the US would make it even less feasible.

Another possibility is a system of canals to distribute surplus water to areas of drought. This could also be used for transport and recreation.

ETpro's avatar

@uckyGuy You are looking only at commodity costs and not opportunity costs. What is the cost of another Great Dustbowl and the resultant starvation? What is the cost of flooding when adjacent areas are dry and need that water? What is the cost of wildfires destroying millions of acres of wild lands, uncounted wildlife and even whole species, and tens of thousands of people’s homes?

JLeslie's avatar

@ETpro You need to get the whole country more nationally minded than individual states rights minded to even start thinking in terms of helping other states without thinking about the what the price should be. I know you are not saying ignore costs by thinking in terms of opportunity costs, but most American can’t handle that big of a calculation.

Were you on the recent Q where someone said some people are against abortion because they don’t want to have to pay for other peoples abortions? And, I called those people idiots (not realizeng the jelly who said it seemed to actually be inclined to this way of thinking? I said they were idiots, because the child costs way more than the abortion. The jelly then said, “how can it cost more?” I’m going to assume this same person might be inclined to not want to pay for an illegal immigrant to go to public schools, but doesn’t move that thinking over to we pay for all children to goto school. And, then in addition to society educating this child, if they are on social services the birth alone costs more than the abortion. Forget about food stamps and whatever else. I don’t think they have responded to me yet? I have to double check. I’m not steering this Q to the discussion of abortion, just giving it as an example of how politicans and the public can sway people on an issue with numbers to simply support whatever their goal is.

Plus, people don’t think things will go wrong in the future, they don’t want to adjust what they do now in case something bad could happen.

As far as the fires. I heard that if we let smaller fire happen as they naturally would occur where places were prone to fire, the larger ones would not happen as much. I don’t know if bringing water down to the dry areas would help prevent fires? You think they are going to water the forrests every day to prevent a possible fire?

cazzie's avatar

OK… here is an important lesson, I think, that the US could learn from other countries. They need to take quite seriously, the issue of food production. Their policy has not changed much since the early 70’s when corn based foodstuffs (corn syrup) production was subsidised and rubber stamped as the way of the future. Cheap, crap calories that filled bellies but, as it turned out, was at the cost of the health of the nation.

On the flipside, here you have Norway in the 1970’s. Loads of oil dosh to spend as they will. Do they stop the expensive domestic food production (which is limited to certain grains and animals and no longer totally appeals to the sophisticated palate of your average Norwegian who has travelled and gotten used to the luxury imported food….) that can be produced offshore for much less money? NO! They remember WW2 and how easy it would have been to starve the country into submission. Farms and food production is subsidised at a HUGE percentage because it is considered a cost of national security. If there is no food production here, it would be WAAAY too easy for an outside force to take control of the country. So, teaching food production in our schools as well as keeping subsidised family farms in operation is as important as keeping a navy or air force.
If the US invested just a tiny FRACTION of their defence budget into food production, you would all be sitting pretty and eating very high on the hog. Perhaps it is getting time to write a strongly worded letter to your state and federal representatives.

woodcutter's avatar

Well since it would have to a national aquaduct it would be impossible to get the tea party to want to spend the money. All that water in Fla and Louisiana right now would probably be welcomed elsewhere, and the crops that those same residents enjoy that are grown where it’s too dry would benefit from lower food costs. I’m not sure how much it would divide up into where it all goes as far as crop irrigation but this year’s corn crop is shit.

ETpro's avatar

@woodcutter I am absolutely certain all that water would not only be very welcome elsewhere, it would be a delight to the flood zones to ship it off where it is needed.

woodcutter's avatar

I think it can be counted on that there will always be excessive water problems in the gulf states for the foreseeable future. What would rub some the wrong way is if there is a change in weather patterns and there would be bitching it was a waste of money because it wouldn’t be useful enough in an area. The piling on would be something no politician would survive these days. I suppose there would need to be security watching the whole thing because of intentional contamination attempts.

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