The Transcontinental Aqueduct; Will it pay for itself?

The goal of the Transcontinental Aqueduct is to save Lake Mead, save the American Southwest from becoming a desert, provide Hydroelectric peak storage for Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, provide sweet Mississippi water for irrigation, provide water to the Colorado river so it again can reach the ocean, revitalize San Carlos lake, provide more and better drinking water to 30 million people, to name just a few benefits.

The cost is substantial. The biggest problem is that the aqueduct must be substantially completed at full capacity before any benefits from the water will materialize. The cost to bring the aqueduct to half capacity is 300.5 billion dollars in construction cost only. This includes the cost of half the pumps or generators needed for full capacity, but not the cost of the power plants. Add to this the cost of filling the aqueduct and the 11 dams. The aqueduct itself will contain 1 million acre-ft of water when filled, the 11 dams will contain about 800,000 acre-ft when half full. To pump 1.8 MAF an average of 5000 feet requires about 10 TWh, when losses are included. Th filling stage water will be pumped, using excess wind and solar power at bargain rates, about 4 c/kwh , the same as the LFTR will produce when fully installed. This is about 320 million dollars in “liquid investment” The electric cost of moving one acre-ft from the Mississippi to the Colorado River is 6 MWh. This power is initially bought from off-peak wind and solar power, but as the aqueduct is completed with true hydropower storage up more and more the power will be generated with 100 MW LFTR power plants, the hydropower storage will be filled with excess wind and solar power.

In short: assuming a 50 year amortization plan for the aqueduct, and money available at 2%, , it will cost 12.5 billion a year in capital cost to deliver 7.5 MAF water from the Mississippi River to the Colorado river or any point in between, or $1,670 per acre-ft. Add to that $240 for electricity and another $50 per acre-ft in overhead and maintenance, the cost will be $1960 per acre-ft

When the aqueduct is fully built up, it will cost $13.4 billion yearly in capital cost to deliver 14.5 MAF of water from the Mississippi River to the Colorado river or any point in between, or $ 925 per acre-ft. The other costs stay the same, so the total cost of water will be $ 1,215 per acre-ft.

I have not yet mentioned the other major benefit of the Transcontinental Aqueduct. If I wanted the lowest cost of water possible, I would have used the lower route, going through the Texas lowlands to El Paso before routing it through New Mexico and Arizona. I routed it through the high and dry parts of Texas and New Mexico, at extra altitude penalty. The intent is to provide Hydropower storage at select places. These places are ideal for wind and solar power, but they need to store the energy when the sun is not up or doesn’t shine, or the wind doesn’t blow. Right now that is provided by coal and natural gas. Conventional nuclear power is best for use as base power only, so this transcontinental aqueduct will provide up to 23 GW of pure hydropower storage for 5 hours a day, but the LFTR nuclear stations providing the energy pumping the water in the aqueduct will shut off the pumps for five hours a day, or when the need arises, and instead provide another 20 GW of virtual hydropower power.

These 43 GW of hydropower capacity will be as follows: Louisiana, 0.4 GW; Texas, 18,5 GW (right now, Texas has no hydropower storage, but plenty of wind power); New Mexico, 10.5 GW; Arizona 13.6 GW. In Addition, when the Transcontinental Aqueduct is fully built up, the Hoover dam can provide a true 2.2 GW hydrostorage poser by pumping water back from Lake Mojave, a 3 billion dollar existing proposal waiting to be realized once Lake Mead is saved.

The amount of installed hydroelectric power storage is:

U.S. operating hydroelectric pumped storage capacity

Most hydroelectric pumped storage was installed in the 70’s. Now natural gas plants provide most of the peak power. This aqueduct will double, triple the U.S. pumped peak storage if virtual peak storage is included. By being pumped from surplus wind and solar energy as well as nuclear energy it is true “Green power”. Some people like that.

Apocalypse in China. Two dams in inner Mongolia burst! Like catastrophic flooding in Europe, blame climate change first!

Two dams collapsed in the Hulunbuir proince on Sunday, July 18.

6,660 people were affected; 53,800 acres of farmland was flooded; 22 bridges, 124 culverts, and 15.6 kilometres of highway were destroyed….Casualties are unknown.

On July 20 was reported heavy rains in the Henan province caused flooding of the Yellow river and its tributaries. The yellow river normally does not even reach the ocean for 3 months of the year!

In Europe flooding occurred in at least 7 countries. It started with heavy rains in the beginning of July, some areas received 4 inches of rain, over three times the normal rainfall for all of July, then on July 14 fell another 4 inches. The dams were already full to the brim, so many areas were flooded.

Here is a very good summary of the events in Europe, and as you expected, climate change is blamed.

What did he mean by “We are now officially in the era of climate change.”

Europe and China have always had floods. In fact, casualties have gone down substantially in the last hundred and fifty years. Here is a chart from Europe:

Dams has always been important since the beginning of industrialization, first as water wheels to provide power, then with electricity the rivers were really exploited to provide hydroelectric power. Flood control was also important, and there is a trade-off, which is more important, electric power or flood prevention? To maximize electric output you want to have the dams filled to the brim at all times, for flood control you want to have the dams at half full, to always be ready to absorb the next rain. The problem is that in so doing the dams only produce 70% of maximum energy. To complicate matters, the last ten years there has been a large investment in wind and solar energy, and when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, the hydro-electric power storage will have to fill in the gaps, if we are to have any clean energy at all times.

This was the case in Europe in July. The early rains had filled up the dams to within a foot of maximum, and there had not been any controlled releases to prepare for the additional rains expected. Bureaucrats hate to do controlled releases, they see billions of Kilowatt hours go to waste. The bureaucracy failed, these decisions must be made with no delay, but if politicians rather than technically competent people are to make the decisions, the time delays inherent in any bureaucracy will make disasters like these happen again and again.

The Transcontinental Aqueduct; Cost estimates.

To begin cost estimates, the model used is the cost for the Arizona central project. The waterway was constructed 1974 to 1993 at a cost of 4.7 billion dollars. In 2021 dollars that would be about 12.8 billion. The cost for the canal would be about 12 billion and 800 million for the pumping stations. The average size of the aqueduct in its beginning is 80 feet across the top and 24 feet across the bottom and the water is 16.5 feet deep. The concrete is 3.5 inches thick and, in some areas, it is reinforced with steel rebars. It is 336 miles long from Lake Havasu City to Tucson with a total lift of over 2,900 feet. The capacity starts out at over 2.2 million acte-ft per year, diminishing as the drop-off point occurs, and the total pumping of 1.4 million acre feet of water is lifted by up to 2,900 feet by 14 pumping stations using 2,500 GWh of electricity each year. The pumping stations have a total pumping capacity of 240 MW.

The transcontinental aqueduct is much bigger: The The average size of the aqueduct in its beginning is 220 feet across the top and 65 feet across the bottom and the water is 44 feet deep. The concrete is 4.5 inches thick and, in some areas, it is reinforced with steel rebars. The concrete used is 16,500 cu yd per mile. It will cost about five times as much per mile as the ACP, so the total cost for the Transcontinental Aqueduct will be (12x 5 : 336 x 1505) = 268 billion dollars.

The cost of building the dams are estimated at $1 billion per dam. There are 15 dams, of which 11 must be built before aqueduct is operational at half capacity.

There is a total of 29.1 GW of pumped power and 3.8 GW of base power generated. To get the aqueduct operational at 7.5 MAF/year it requires 16.5 GW of energy. Pumping cost capital is about $ 1.30 per watt, so the minimum pumping capital cost is 21.5 Billion dollars. When the aqueduct is fully built up the capital cost for pumping includes 23.3 GW of peak power, raising the cost to $ 52 Billion’

The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor chosen is a 100 MW unit. The reactor core assembly is small enough so it can be produced on an assembly line and delivered on truck. It can be built for $ 230 million. To complete the installation costs another # 30 million per unit. The aqueduct needs 146 for minimum flow, and another 145 when it is fully built out. The initial capital cost for grid access and minimum flow is $38 billion, double that when fully built out.

To sum it up,the capital cost for a flow of 7.5 MAF is (268 +21.5 + 38) = 327.5 billion dollars. At a flow of 15.5 MAF the cost is 387 billion. To add another 22.1 GW of 5 hour peak power per day add 5 billions for 4 dams and tunnels and 28 billion for pumps = 33 billion dollars

The Transcontinental Aqueduct. Leg 12: San Carlos Lake to the Colorado river following the Gila river, a distance of 280 miles. (Updated)

Stage 12 is a true delivery of water on demand aqueduct. The San Carlos lake has a storage capacity of a million acre-ft, the ideal buffer from the peak power demand driven uphill stages to the major delivery stage. San Carlos lake is now mostly empty, but will be normally filled to 85% of capacity, slightly less in advance of the winter snow melt. The Lake would look like this:

San Carlos lake, about half full

The Coolidge dam is now decommissioned, the lake is too often empty and the dam suffered damage in the power plant and it was no longer economical to produce power. The retrofitted dam will have a power generation capacity of up to 19,000 cfs the top of the dam is at 2535 ft, the typical water level is at 2500 ft and the drop is 215 feet, giving a maximum power output of 325 MW.

Coolidge dam before rebuilding

From there the stream follows the Gila River all the way to the Colorado River with the following dropoffs:

Where the Arizona central project waterway crosses the Gila river it will deliver up to 500 cfs to Tucson

Where the Gila river meets the Salt river it can deliver up to 1,500 cfs to the Phoenix-Scottsdale metropolitan area.

To the Martinez lake it can deliver up to 15,155 cfs, the design capacity of the All American canal. This will of course be nearly always far less, dependent on the need for water for irrigation, but we dimension the aqueduct to accomodate maximum flow. The Martinez lake is puny, and would easily be overwhelmed by surges in the water flow. To accommodate this, the Senator Wash Reservoir will have to be upgraded to be able to pump up or down at least twice as much water as is it present capacity. Lake Martinez is at about 180 feet elevation, and Senator Wash Reservoir is at a maximum elevation of 240 feet.

The Martinez lake and the Senator Wash Reservoir.

The rest of the Transcontinental Aqueduct empties out where the Gila river joins the remainder of the Colorado river a few miles downstream. It will be able to carry up to 6, 000 cfs of water to accommodate the needs of Mexico and also provide a modest amount of water to assure the Colorado river again reaches the ocean, maybe restoring some shrimp fishing in the ocean.

The 1944 water treaty with Mexico provides Mexico with 1.5 million acre-ft per year, more or less dependent of drought or surplus. It will be increased only on condition that when the Transcontinental aqueduct is finished, the New River in Mexicali will be cut off at the border, and Mexico will have to do their own complete waste water treatment.

There will be water allocated to the Salton Sea. Proposed will be the world’s largest Lithium mine, mining the deep brine, rich in Lithium. (about 40% of the world supply according to one estimate). This requires water, and as a minimum to allow mining in the Salton Sea the water needs to be cleaned. This requires further investigation, but the area around the Salton Sea is maybe the most unhealthy in the United States.

The maximum power generating drop during this last leg will be (2500 – 190 – 2.2X 280) = 1694 feet. With an average flow of 14,000 cfs this will generate 1.9 GW of power, but the realized power output will be determined by the actual water demands.

The Transcontinental Aqueduct. Leg 11: Cove Tank Reservoir to San Carlos Lake, a distance of 70 miles.

Stage 10 was a true pumped hydro-storage peak power stage, producing up to 11.5 GW electric power for up to 5 hours a day. In stage 11 the flow will be a maximum flow of up to 25,000 cfs, but with periods of less flow during low electricity demand, all to accommodate both water needs and power demands.

The Cove Tank Reservoir dam is 1 mile wide and 250 feet high, the top of the dam is at 4,000 feet. containing up to 60,000 acre-ft of water, enough storage for more than a day’s flow.

The Cove tank Reservoir starts out nearly empty when peak power demand starts, and is rapidly filling up until peak demand ends

The power generating drop is on average (3800 – 2535 – 70×2.2) = 1,111 feet. This stage is capable of generating maximum 2.2 GW of power during peak power demand, adjusted down at low power demand to not exceed the daily water supply.

San Carlos lake is located within the 3,000-square-mile (7,800 km2) San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, and is thus subject to tribal regulations. It has been full only three times, in 1993 it overflowed the spillway and about 35,000 cfs of water caused erosion damage to natural gas pipelines. The lake contains now (April 6,2021) less than 100 acre-ft of water. All fish is dead.

When former President Coolidge dedicated the dam in 1930, the dam had not begun to fill. Humorist Will Rogers looked at the grass in the lake bed, and said, “If this were my dam, I’d mow it.”[

When the Transcontinental aqueduct is built the lake will always be nearly filled, with flood control nearly automatic, it will never overflow, and it will look like this:

The San Carlos lake, when filled will hold 1,000,000 acre-ft of water.

The Coolidge dam will have to be retrofitted for a 25,000 cfs water flow

The Transcontinental Aqueduct. Leg 10: Round Mountain Rockhound Reservoir to Cove Tank Reservoir, a distance of 13 miles.

Stage 9 ended up in the Round Mountain Rockhound Reservoir. The dam is 400 feet high and will top out at 5360 feet with a maximum water level at 5350 feet. This is the western high point in the Transcontinental aqueduct. Stage 10 and forward will deliver peak energy when possible. This stage can deliver peak energy only 5 hours a day, or deliver the day’s worth of peak energy whenever called for. To make this possible there will be a tunnel and pumping station capable of delivering up to 95,000 cfs when called for. The drop is maximum (5410 – 3690 – 13×2.2) = 1702 feet and minimum (5300 – 4000 -13×2.2) = 1272 feet with an average of 1500 feet, delivering 11.5 GW of pumped hydro-storage peak power for 5 hours a day.

The tunnel to the Cove Tank reservoir is 13 miles long and the power station is somewhere in the tunnel’s path. The pumps are not reversible. The Cove Tank Reservoir dam is 1 mile wide and 250 feet high, containing 60,000 acre-ft of water, enough for 7.5 hrs of filling it at 95,000 cfs, or maximum flow capacity of this stage.

The Arctic ice sheet and Greenland ice is doing quite well, thank you. A Limerick.

The ice in the Arctic will stay

In Greenland it snowed every day

New white snow, what a sight!

Reflects back all the light

No tipping point here, this i say.

Back in 2012 the Greenland ice sheet had an unprecedented melt, and the prediction was that all the Arctic ice would be melted in September of 2015, having reached the Climate tipping point from which there is no return to a normal climate unless we reorganized society into a more totalitarian global governance.

Well, the tipping point didn’t happen, so hopefully global governance will not happen either’ even many are trying.

These are the latest charts for arctic temperatures, ice and snow for Jan 11:

Notice the temperature has been below normal for the first half of the melting season.

The icepack on Greenland has barely started melting during the melting season

Notice the difference between this year and 2012

And yesterday’s snowfall over Greenland

Notice, Greenland only melts at the edges, the ice pack is always frozen

Remember, H2O is a condensing gas, when cooled off it condenses into clouds.

Clouds cool by day and warm by night, a one percent difference in cloud cover means more than the increase in CO2.

The only place this doesn’t work is in deserts. Forget CO2, but let us not make any more deserts.

The Transcontinental Aqueduct. Leg 9: Martin Tank Lake to Round Mountain Rockhound Reservoir, a distance of 210 miles.

Stage 8 went from Arch Lewis Canyon Lake to Martin Tank Lake. The Martin Tank Lake dam is 22260 feet wide and 230 feet high. The Lake will contain about 30,000 Acre-ft when full, about eighteen hours worth of storage.

The elevation at the Martin Tank lake will top out at 4620 feet with maximum water level at 4610 feet. The aqueduct will first descend to 3980 feet, as it crosses the Rio Grande in La Mesa, a distance of 50 miles. The elevation difference is (4620 – 3980 – 50 X 2.2) feet = 530 feet. Releasing 24,000 cfs of water 530 feet will generate 1 GW of energy for 19 hrs/day. From La Mesa it will climb to the Round Mountain Rockhound Reservoir. The dam is 400 feet high and will top out at 5360 feet with a maximum water level at 5350 feet. The total lift of the water in stage 9 is (5350 – 3980 + 160×2.2) feet = 1722 ft. To lift 24,000 cubic feet per second 1722 feet requires seven 500 MW LFTR nuclear reactors, . T he Round Mountain Rockhound Reservoir will contain about 40,000 Acre-ft of water when full, about one day of storage. For 5 hours per day these seven reactors used in this stage can provide 3.5 GW of peak power to the grid instead of pumping water, thus acting as a virtual hydroelectric peak power storage. The Round Mountain Rockhound Reservoir will look like this:

The Transcontinental Aqueduct. Leg 8: Arch Lewis Canyon Lake to Martin Tank Lake, a distance of 50 miles.

Stage 8 ended in Arch Lewis Lake. It will be filled mostly during the 5 hours of peak power generation. During the other 19 hours the fill rate will be very low leading to lowering water levels.

It has a 3000 feet wide and up to 480 feet high dam, topping out at 4620 feet, and the lake holds a volume of up to 60,000 acre-ft of water.

From the Arch Lewis Lake dam to the Martin Tank Lake the distance is 60 miles the way the aqueduct takes. It will first descend to 3720 feet before rising to 5190 feet. The descending drop is (4620 – 3720 – 2.2 x 9), or up to 890 feet. The Martin Canyon Lake will top out at 5200 feet with maximum water level at 5190 feet. The total lift of the water in this stage is (5190 – 3720 + 51×2.2) feet = 1582 ft. To lift 25,000 cubic feet per second (1582 x 1.03 – 890 x 0.97) = 766 feet requires three 500 MW LFTR nuclear reactors plus the use of 80 MW from the grid. The Martin Tank Lake dam is 22260 feet wide and 230 feet high. It will contain about 30,000 Acre-ft when full, about eighteen hours worth of storage. For 5 hours per day the three reactors can provide 1.5 GW of peak power to the grid.

The Transcontinental Aqueduct. Leg 7: White Oaks Canyon Lake (to be made) to the Arch Lewis Canyon Lake via a 20 mile tunnel under the Guadaloupe Mountains in New Mexico.

Dam 1 dams the White Oaks Canyon Lake. It has a 2000 feet wide and up to 400 feet high dam, topping out at 5000 feet, and the lake holds a volume of up to 80,000 acre-ft of water.

Dam 2 dams the Last Chance Canyon Lake. It has a 2200 feet wide and up to 380 feet high dam, topping out at 5680 feet, and the lake holds a water volume of up to 35,000 acre-ft.

The Stage 7 is a tunnel, starting at 4600 feet and ending at 4492 feet maximum levels. The 20 mile long tunnel will drop 88 feet as it passes under the mountain.

Dam 3 dams the Upper Canyon Lake for lack of a better word. It has a 1600 feet wide and up to 240 feet high dam, topping out at 5200 feet, and the lake holds a volume of up to 15,000 acre-ft of water.

Dam 4 dams the Arch Lewis Canyon Lake for lack of a better word. It has a 3000 feet wide and up to 480 feet high dam, topping out at 4600 feet, and the lake holds a volume of up to 60,000 acre-ft of water.

Up to now all stages have pumped water up the mountains. This stage releases the hydroelectric water storage, and it does so even during peak power, so the water flows all 24 hours with peak electricity creation during peak usage. By now, the average flow is down to 19000 cfs , 24 hours a day. During off peak hours, 19000 cfs flows down the tunnel, the power generated is coming from Dam 1 with a water level of between 4980 feet and 4700 feet with an average of 4940 feet. The maximum output level of the water is 4640 feet, so a drop of 300 feet will generate a minimum of 450 MW of power, or 8.6 GWh/day. Part of this energy will be used to pump up the water to Dam 2 and 3. Dam 2 will pump 13,000 cfs of water from 4630 feet to between 5820 feet ans 5520 feet, (average 5760) for 19 hours, an average lift of 1,060 feet. This required a total of 6.2 GWh of energy per day , or 326 MW pf power. Dam 3 will pump 6,000 cfs of water from 4630 feet to between 5200 feet and 4930 feet, (average 5120) for 19 hours, an average lift of 520 feet. This required a total of 1.4 GWh of energy per day , or 74 MW pf power.

The net electricity generated during 19 off peak hours is 1.0 MW on average. The electricity generated during the 5 peak hours is 49,000 cfs at a drop of 1060 feet, or 1.16 GW, from dam 2. From dam 3 it will be 22,800 cfs at a drop of 520 feet, or 264 MW. From the 2 dams , total electricity is 1.42 GW. Total electricity generated during these 5 hours is 7.12 GWh. This assumes a 97% efficiency of the reversible pumps from Dam 2 and 3. The pumps from Dam 1 are not reversible.

The tunnel capacity between Dam 1 and Dam 2 outlets is 19,000 cfs, between Dam 2 and 3 it is 49,000 cfs, and from Dam 3 to its exit in Dam 4 it is 71,800 cfs.