Filling Lake Mead with Mississippi River Water No Longer a Pipe Dream

Posted on: February 7, 2023, 02:30h. 

Final up to date on: February 7, 2023, 02:30h.

Regardless of current rains, the water degree in Lake Mead – which provides Las Vegas with 90% of its water – was 1,046.94 ft above sea degree on Feb. 2. That’s solely 28% of its full capability. And reducing water use, even drastically, might not remedy the issue.

A 22-year drought within the American Southwest is sinking Lake Mead to depths it hasn’t seen because it was stuffed practically 100 years in the past, exposing a number of long-submerged our bodies and boats. (Picture:

Due to local weather change, some estimates predict that the Colorado River might ship solely half its present quantity of water by the 12 months 2100.

Pumping Mississippi River water into Lake Mead has been steered earlier than. However as water ranges drop – threatening to finally minimize off California, Arizona, and Mexico from their Colorado River water allotments – and as engineering know-how advances, large-scale river diversion doesn’t appear as a lot of a pipe dream because it as soon as did.

In 2021, the Arizona state legislature truly handed a measure urging Congress to research pumping flood water from the Mississippi to the Colorado to spice up its circulate. Research present {that a} challenge like this is able to be potential, although it could take many years of development and billions of {dollars}. Possibly even trillions.

“I believe it could be foolhardy to dismiss it as not possible,” Richard Rood, professor of Local weather and House Sciences and Engineering on the College of Michigan, informed the Cedar Rapids Gazette. “However we have to know much more about it than we presently do.”

Massive-scale river diversion tasks have been proposed within the US because the Sixties when an American firm sought to redistribute Alaskan water throughout the continent utilizing canals and reservoirs. That plan by no means generated sufficient assist – a destiny shared by related proposals in Minnesota and Iowa.

Nonetheless Too Dear … For Now

In 2012, the U.S. Division of the Inside’s Bureau of Reclamation carried out a Colorado River Basin evaluation contemplating a number of options to the present drought – together with importing water from the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

Below the analyzed situation, water could be diverted to Colorado’s Entrance Vary and areas of New Mexico. That may price at the least $1,700 per acre-feet of water, doubtlessly yield 600,000 acre-feet of water per 12 months by 2060, and take 30 years to assemble.

A decade later, Roger Viadero, an environmental scientist and engineer at Western Illinois College, calculated that transferring this scale of water would require a pipe 88 ft in diameter – twice so long as a semi-trailer – or a 100-foot-wide channel that’s 61 ft deep.

“As an engineer, I can assure you that it’s doable,” Viadero informed the Cedar Rapids Gazette. “However there are tons of issues that may be accomplished however aren’t ever accomplished.”

Viadero’s crew estimated the price of shopping for sufficient water to refill the Colorado River’s Lake Mead and Lake Powell at greater than $134 billion, assuming a penny per gallon. Add to that heavy development prices and the prices of powering the gear wanted to pump the water over the Western Continental Divide. Shopping for the land to safe water rights could be very pricey, too.

Politics: The Different Downside

The political hurdles are additionally appreciable. They embody wetlands protections, endangered species protections, ingesting water provide concerns, and interstate transport protections. Precedents set by different diversion makes an attempt – equivalent to those that created the Nice Lakes Compact, additionally forged doubt over the political viability of any large-scale Mississippi River diversion try.

And transnational pipelines would additionally influence ecological sources. Decrease Mississippi River circulate means much less sediment carried right down to Louisiana, the place it’s wanted for coastal restoration. Diverting that water additionally means spreading issues, like pollution, extreme vitamins, and invasive species equivalent to Asian carp.

None of this even considers crucial query: Is there even sufficient water to spare? The Mississippi River basin might not be a dependable reply to the Colorado River basin’s drawback because the Mississippi is drying up, too. Water ranges are at or under the low-water threshold alongside an almost 400-mile stretch of the river. This previous 12 months, sunken boats, such because the Diamond Girl riverboat on line casino, are surfacing like our bodies are in Lake Mead.

“Nobody desires to depart the western states with out water,” Melissa Scanlan, a freshwater sciences professor on the College of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, informed the Cedar Rapids Gazette. “However transferring water from one drought-impacted space to a different is just not an answer.”

Rising Precedent

Nonetheless, there may be hope. Final 12 months, a Kansas groundwater administration company obtained a allow to truck 6,000 gallons of Missouri River water into Kansas and Colorado to recharge an aquifer. A number of accepted diversions already drain water from the Nice Lakes. And in northwestern Iowa, a river has repeatedly been pumped dry by a rural water utility that sells at the least 1 / 4 of the water outdoors the state. And there

In July 2022, former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed laws investing $1.2 billion into tasks that preserve water and convey extra into the state. Amongst its provisions, the legislation granted Arizona’s water infrastructure finance authority to “examine the feasibility” of potential out-of-state water import agreements.

And, because the drained adage goes, determined occasions name for determined measures. Based on a two-year projection by the federal Bureau of Reclamation, by the tip of July 2024, Lake Mead’s water degree might fall to as little as 992 ft above sea degree. That’s perilously near a lifeless pool (895 ft), the purpose when a reservoir is so low gravity will not enable it to launch water downstream. If and when Lake Mead hits this level, that shall be dire information for downstream areas, together with Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, Tucson, and Mexico.

“It’s potential that the scenario will get so dire that there’s an amount of cash on the market that might overcome all of those obstacles,” Rhett Larson, an Arizona State College professor of water legislation, informed the Cedar Rapids Gazette. “It is perhaps within the trillions, however it in all probability does exist.”

Within the meantime, researchers encourage extra possible and sustainable choices, equivalent to higher water conservation, water recycling, and fewer agricultural reliance.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *