The solution to the water shortage in the South-West, and Texas hydro-electric storage problem, eliminating carbon fuel dependence at the same time.

The Hoover dam water is being depleted. We are running out of water in the South-West United States. The water used for irrigation is too salty. The rapidly growing population requires more and more water. Texas needs hydro-electric storage to supplement the power when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining.

First let us assess the size of the problem. The rainfall reaching the streams in the Colorado River basin is about 15 million acre feet per year, and is not increasing. See figure:

Now let us look at water allocations:

The total allocations come to 16.5 Million Acre Feet per year. This is clearly unsustainable, Lake Mead will be drained by 2 MAF per year and is now at 34% of full pool of 32.3 MAF. If nothing is done it will be drained in 5.5 years. Draining Lake Powell will give us another 4 years, so something must be done in the next 9.5 years.

Texas has a problem, all too well displayed in the big freeze of last winter. The wind farms froze, the sun didn’t shine and the coal fired plants had been shut down for environmental reasons. The only thing that saved the grid from total collapse was Nuclear Power. Even the Natural Gas powered plants ran out of supplies since some pipelines had lost power. And Texas has virtually no hydroelectric storage capacity.

This is my proposal: Build an aqueduct from the Mississippi river to Yuma California, about 1650 miles long, capable of carrying 15 MAF/year of water It will start and end near sea level, and pump water in Texas and New Mexico to more than 4000 feet elevation until it reaches the Gila river near Duncan, NM, then follow the Gila river all the way down to Yuma, AZ. On the way down the Gila River it will generate hydroelectric power, and recover much of the power spent pumping the water upstream in Texas and NM. You may wonder, what would a canal like that look like? Some of the way it would look like this, but be 30% larger, here is the All American canal under construction:

It will have many pumping stations. The size will be about 10 times the capacity of the ones used in the Colorado River aqueduct, shown here. (This aqueduct made it possible for Los Angeles to grow to a megalopolis.)

To pump all this water 4500 feet up will require twenty-two 500 MW electric power generators. The ideal power source for this is Liquid Fluor Thorium Reactors that provide power at all times, most of the time they pump water, but about 6 hours a day they stop pumping and provide peak power, thus functioning as a virtual hydroelectric battery. As all nuclear generators they generate no CO2, and LFTRs are so safe they do not require evacuation zones. If the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow, or it is excessively cold or hot, they can even stop pumping water altogether and provide all the power to the grid. With the water on the downhill leg the opposite is true. It releases most of its water during times of high demand, acting as a normal peak water storage generator facility. Since both start and end points of this aqueduct is near sea level, about 90% of the power is recovered in this way except for the water that is diverted at high altitudes.

Who is going to get all this extra water? Check the current allotment and the new proposed allotment.

There will be no changes to the allotments for the states in the upper Colorado River basin in this proposal.

California will get its allotment increased from 4.4 MAF to 6.4 MAF, all water coming from the new aqueduct.

Arizona will get its allotment increased from 2.8 MAF to 4.3 MAF, all from the new aqueduct.

Nevada will get its allotment increased from 0.3 MAF to 1.3 MAF, the increase will be taken from Lake Mead.

Mexico will get its allotment doubled, to 3.0 MAF. The Colorado river should again be reaching Baja California with a flow of 0.5 MAF. This may restore a modest fishery.

New Mexico will be allotted 1.0 MAF for high elevation irrigation from this new aquifer.

The aqueduct will supply California, Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico with water from the Mississippi river, much better suited for irrigation than the present water which is high in salinity.

This will reduce the outflow from the Hoover dam by 6.9 MAF, and the new aqueduct will supply 10.4 MAF downstream from Lake Mead.. With this reduction in outflow Lake Mead will recover quite well.

When the Hoover dam is near full pool, we should start using it as a peak power supplier by pumping water back from Lake Mohave to Lake Mead during off peak demand.

If there ever was a project worthy of consideration in the Infrastructure bill, this is it. Look what it does:

  1. Saves Lake Mead from being emptied and secures its refilling over time.
  2. The 22 LFTR plants in Texas and New Mexico will provide up to 8 GW of peak power for 5 hours a day, and all 11 GW of power can be commandeered for emergency use for a week.
  3. The downstream dams in Arizona will provide up to 6 GW of peak power.
  4. Once the project is finished, the Hoover dam is converted to a peak power storage with 2 GW peak power available.
  5. the addition of 10.4 MAF water will add 40% to the water supply for over 40 million people.
  6. The Mississippi water is better suited for irrigation than Colorado River water due to much less salinity.
  7. By increasing irrigation by at least 3.5 MAF it will provide a 40% increase in food production from the greater imperial valley and a 40% increase in food production from Mexico.
  8. The electric energy generated by the Nuclear power plants is all carbon free, and because of the peak power generated on the downhill leg, we can build another 19 GW peak power of renewable wind and solar generators. This will allow us to retire 19 GW of Coal fired power plants once the aqueduct is completed

The new name for this canal would be the Transcontinental Aqueduct.

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Retired engineer, graduated from Chalmers Technical University a long time ago with a degree in Technical Physics. Career in Aerospace, Analytical Chemistry, computer chip manufacturing and finally adjunct faculty at Pennsylvania State University, taught just one course in Computer Engineering, the Capstone Course.

3 thoughts on “The solution to the water shortage in the South-West, and Texas hydro-electric storage problem, eliminating carbon fuel dependence at the same time.”

  1. Interesting! I have four questions/comments:

    1. You’ve obviously put a lot of work into this proposal. Did you work alone, Len, or was it a team effort?

    2. Do you have any cost estimates?

    3. I recommend that the first time you use an acronym you include its definition, either in parentheses or via a hyperlink:

      MAF (MAF = “million acre-feet”; 1 MAF = 325,851,000,000 gallons ≈ 1.23 trillion liters with a mass of 1.23 Gt)

    4. Of your eight listed effects of this proposed project, #1-#7 are positive, but #8 is negative. The fact that nuclear power plants do not produce CO2 is unfortunate, because the scientific evidence is compelling that CO2 emissions are beneficial, rather than harmful.

    1. Hi, David Burton, Good to hear from you. Here are my answers.
      1. Being finally retired I try to see if there is any way to keep what little is left of the brain functioning by keeping up with today’s challenges. I am alone in this endeavor, even my own family encourage me with “If it helps keep ypur brain functioning, it is all to the good”
      2. Cost estimates are always tricky. The Obamacare website was budgeted for 195 million dollars. It was a government run website, so I lost count when the total cost went over 2.2 Billion.
      If the Government would do it, it will be in the trillions, but with Government releasing private initiative, my gut feeling is 600 Billion. I am now doing the materials calculations stage for stage, so we will see.
      3 I was educated on the metric system, but out west all the talk is about acre-ft of water rights, so I reluctantly convert my calculations.
      4. Coal is too valuable a mineral to just burn for electricity. It needs to be saved for our great grandchildren, so they have something to cook on when the next ice age sets in. The CO2 advantage becomes a disadvantage if the level goes over 800 ppm, at least for some plants.

      1. I agree with all of those points except the very last sentence. I have two issues with it:

        A. There are no plants which suffer any negative effects from CO2 levels above 800 ppmv. Commercial greenhouses very often use CO2 generators to raise daytime CO2 concentrations to between 1200 and 1500 ppmv, because it makes the plants healthier and faster-growing. The exceptions are C4 plants, which get little advantage from CO2 concentration above 800 ppmv, but even C4 plants are not harmed by elevated CO2 levels, even levels far above 800 ppmv..

        B. Unfortunately, the average outdoor CO2 concentration can never be made to reach 800 ppmv through the use of fossil fuels.

        If mankind’s CO2 emissions were to continue at the current rate for hundreds of years, the average atmospheric CO2 concentration would plateau at only about 515 ppmv. In fact, even if mankind’s CO2 emission rate were to double, and continue at that (doubled) rate for hundreds of years, the average atmospheric CO2 concentration would still plateau at only about 725 ppmv.

        Those are facts which surprise many people, but they are true.

        The current net anthropogenic CO2 emission rate is about +5 ppmv per year. The atmospheric CO2 concentration is rising an average of about 2½ ppmv per year. So that means natural processes are removing about 2½ ppmv of CO2 per year from the atmosphere. Agreed?

        The higher the atmospheric CO2 concentration rises, the faster natural negative feedbacks remove it: “greening” (CO2 fertilization) sequesters it in the terrestrial biosphere and soil, and dissolution into seawater and raindrops sequesters it in the ocean.

        That fact alone proves that if anthropogenic CO2 emissions are constant then the atmospheric CO2 level must plateau, eventually, when the removal rate increases to the point at which it equals the (constant) emission rate.

        So the only question is, what is that level?

        The answer to that question can be found from the historical CO2 removal rates and CO2 concentrations. It turns out that the natural CO2 removal rate from the atmosphere is closely approximated by the following simple linear function of the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere (with co2level expressed in ppmv, and removalrate expressed in ppmv/year):

        ‍‍‍‍‍‍  ‍‍ removalrate = (co2level – 295.1) × 0.0233 ppmv/year

        So, if the atmospheric CO2 level were 515 ppmv, what would the natural removal rate be?

        If you answer that question then you will understand why, if anthropogenic emissions stay at their current rate (about +5 ppmv/year), the atmospheric CO2 level must plateau at no more than about 515 ppmv, and if anthropogenic emissions were to double (to +10 ppmv/year) and hold at that rate for a long time, the atmospheric CO2 level would plateau at only about 725 ppmv.

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