The Trans-Rocky-Mountain Aqueduct will save Lake Powell and Lake Mead, and rejuvenate the American South-west.

The American Southwest has always been subject to drought cycles, some worse than the one that is now devastating the area. Below is a very interesting presentation from ASU about a previous civilization in the Phoenix area, thriving and then gone. https://www.youtube.com/embed/II4Wb8SVxCE?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en&autohide=2&wmode=transparent Arizona State University presentation

Will it happen again?

The problem:

  1. Lake Powell and Lake Mead will be emptied in less than 10 years with the current usage pattern. Then what?
  2. The hydroelectric power from Lake Mead (and Lake Powell) is diminishing as the lakes are emptied.
  3. the aquifers are drawn down everywhere in the Southwest, but also the Ogallala Aquifer in Colorado and Kansas, and are at risk of being exhausted.
  4. The Colorado River water is too salty for good irrigation .
  5. The Colorado river no longer reaches the Gulf of California. Fishing and shrimp harvesting around the Colorado River Delta is no more.
  6. 40 million people depend on the Colorado River for drinking water. The population is still rising rapidly in the West. Will they have water in the future? Think 20 million future population growth in the next 40 years, people want to move there even with the current water problems.

The solution:

Build a Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct from the Mississippi River to the San Juan River. In the first 391 miles the aqueduct joins the McClellan–Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System by adding the capability of pumping 7,500 cfs of water through 16 dams that service the locks. This will lead to reversing the flow of water during low flow. This also facilitates the navigation channel to be deepened from 9 feet to 12 feet to service fully loaded barges, a step authorized but not funded by Congress. The Arkansas river will then be capable of transporting 8 million acre-ft of water yearly through Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico, supplying water from the Colorado river to Lake Powell. All that is needed to do in this stage is provide the dams and locks with a number of pumps and pump/generators to accommodate this, at a cost of less than 2 billion dollars. The next phase is pumping up water in the Arkansas river for 185 miles. To accommodate this there will be 17 small control dams built that are closed when normal pumping occurs and open during flood conditions. The cost for this segment, including pumps will be less than 3 billion dollars. The third segment is a 465 mile aqueduct to cross the Rocky Mountains much like the Central Arizona project but this aqueduct will carry three times more water 1.27 times the distance and raise the water four times higher. The original Central Arizona Project cost $4.7 billion in 1980’s money, the aqueduct part of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct will cost around $50 Billion in 2021 money applying simple scaling up principles.

Power requirements for the 3 stages are 310 MW for the canal stage, 600MW for the river stage and 6.2 GW for the aqueduct stage. The aqueduct stage can be controlled by the power companies to shut off the pumps and provide 6.4 GW of virtual peak power for up to 5 hours a day on average, and each leg can be controlled individually since they are separated by large dams. There will be 64 one hundred MegaWatt LFTR (Liquid Fluoride salt Thorium Rector) power stations strategically stationed along the waterway providing pumping of water for 19 hours and providing virtual hydro-power output for on average 5 hours. There will also be 910 MW of power needed that is controlled by the river authorities.

The building cost of providing LFTR power should be around $2.50 per Watt of installed energy if a plant is built to manufacture via an assembly line a standardized version of 100 MW LFTR reactor core vessels assemblies capable of being transported on truck to the installation point. The total power cost should then be 16 billion dollars to build, and 5 cents per kWh or about 2.5 billion dollars a year to provide power.

The Mississippi River has a bad reputation for having polluted water, but since the clean water act the water quality has improved drastically. Fecal coli-form bacteria is down by a factor of more than 100, the water is now used all the way down to New Orleans for drinking water after treatment. The lead levels are down by a factor of 1000 or more since 1979. Plastic pollution and pharmaceutical pollution is still a problem, as is the case with most rivers. The Ph is back to around 8 and salt content is negligible. Mississippi water is good for irrigation, and usable for drinking water after treatment. The Arkansas River water quality is pretty good, good enough in Kaw Lake to be used for municipal water supply. Nitrates and phosphates are lower than in most Eastern rivers, Ph is around 8 and coli-bacteria low.

Most hydroelectric pumped storage was installed in the 70’s. Now natural gas plants provide most of the peak power. This aqueduct will add 6.4 GW to 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.

What follows is a description of each leg of the aqueduct. Legs 3, 4, 5 and 6 ends in a dam, which holds enough water to make each leg free to operate to best use of available electricity and provide peak power on demand.

Leg 1 of The Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From the Mississippi river to Webbers Falls lock and dam, a distance of 366 miles

Leg 2 of The Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From Webbers Falls to Keystone Dam, a distance of about 75 miles that is river and 25 miles, which is canal.

Leg 3 of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From Keystone Dam to Kaw Dam.The Keystone Lake is 38 miles long and the river part is about 110 miles.

Leg 4 of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From Kaw Lake to John Martin Reservoir, a distance of about 200 miles.

Leg 5 of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From John Martin Reservoir to Trinidad Lake, a distance of about 120 miles.

Leg 6 of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From Trinidad Lake to Abiquiu Reservoir, a distance of 90 miles.

Leg 7 of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From the Abiquiu Reservoir to the San Juan River, a distance of 55 miles.

Leg 7 of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From the Abiquiu Reservoir to the San Juan River.

Leg 7 of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From the Abiquiu Reservoir to the San Juan River, a distance of 55 miles.

Elevation 6270′ Water storage 200,000 acre-ft, max. capacity 1,369,000 acre-ft.

After delivering some water to Rio Grande and other drop off points, the sixth leg has a capacity of 8500 cfs. It starts out at 6270′ and climbs to 7400′ over a distance of 25 miles. This requires a maximum power of (7400-6270 + 2x 25) = 1180′ times 8500 cfs. Assuming a pump efficiency of 92% this comes to a power of 900 MW. From the top it then descends to 5590′ over 30 miles. This will generate a power of (7400-5590 – 2x 30) = 1750′ times 8500 cfs. With generator efficiency of 92% this comes to 1,100 MW. This last leg will generate up to 200 MW power, thus reducing the total power need for the aqueduct.

Once joining the San Juan River there may be some levies put in to protect the people having built their homes in the flood plain. The river once was unregulated and subject to seasonal floods, and periods of very low flood, but once the San Juan Reservoir was built, the ecology of the river changed drastically. The addition of the aqueduct’s water would further stabilize the flow, but not add to the risk of seasonal floods.

The San Juan River would then add a maximum of 8,500 cfs. of water to the Colorado River, but especially during the summer months much water will be delivered en route to thirsty communities, such as Albuquerque and even Santa Fé, and some water will help the greening of the surroundings of the aqueduct and even save aquifers, especially the Ogallala aquifer, so the real average flow will be more like 5,000 cfs. This will translate to an additional yearly inflow of 3.6 million acre-feet into the Colorado River.

Leg 6 of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From Trinidad Lake to Abiquiu Reservoir.

Leg 6 of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From Trinidad Lake to Abiquiu Reservoir, a distance of 90 miles.

Lake Trinidad, elevation 6230′ Water storage 100,000 acre-ft

From Lake Trinidad the aqueduct will carry up to 10,000 cfs.

Elevation 6270′ Water storage 200,000 acre-ft, max. capacity 1,369,000 acre-ft.

The aqueduct will start at Lake Trinidad and follow the river up to Stonewall, where from an elevation of 8450′ it will tunnel under the Rocky Mountains for 7.5 miles and exit 3 miles s.e. of Chama.

From there it will be finding best way to the Rio Grande Canyon, where a dam with culverts for Rio Grande will be built at an elevation of 7490′. The canyon may or may not be a reservoir, dependent on the wishes of the local community. There will be a provision for supplying Rio Grande with some water during the growth season. On the West side of Rio Grande it will gently descend to 6000′, but with occasional rises of up to 100′ . Finally it will climb 270′ to Abiquiu Lake. There will be a provision to supply the river with water , especially during the dry summer. The total climbs for this leg is (8450 – 6230 + 150 + 270)’, plus the 2feet drop per mile times 25 miles. This comes to 2690′. The power required to pump 10,000 cfs 2690feet is 2.4 GW, assuming 92% pumping efficiency. Some of the power is regained on the downhill part, Total downhill is (8450 – 6000 + 100)’ = 2550′ minus the 2feet drop per mile times 65 miles. This comes to 2420′ Power regained from 10,000 cfs dropping 2420′ is 1.8 GW assuming 92% generating efficiency. The total power requirement for this leg is 600 MW. This can best be provided by having 6 100MW Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors, they are carbon neutral. The reason for small reactors is that they can be built in assembly line fashion and the core reactor can be shipped on a flatbed truck. The reactors will provide power to pump as much water as needed, but will stop pumping water when peak power is needed and start acting as a virtual hydro-storage. For this leg seepage and evaporation losses will be less than 2%.

Leg 5 of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From John Martin Reservoir to Trinidad Lake.

Leg 5 of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From John Martin Reservoir to Trinidad Lake, a distance of about 120 miles.

John Martin Reservoir Elevation 3852′ Water volume 340,000 acre-ft

The Trans-Rocky-Mountain Aqueduct will now leave the Arkansas river for good, and it has delivered water to thirsty Kansas, so from now on the total capacity of the Aqueduct will be 10,500 cfs.

Lake Trinidad, elevation 6230′ Water storage 100,000 acre-ft

The aqueduct will be built from the John Martin Reservoir to Trinidad Lke, gradually climbing from 3852 feet to 6230 feet altitude. Figure in a drop of 2 feet per mile to ensure optimum laminar flow and the total rise in the pumping stations will be (6230-3852+2×120 = 2618) feet. The maximum flow of water up the aqueduct will be 10,500 cfs. The total power required pumping this much water will be 2.5 GW. This can best be resolved by having 25 100MW Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors, they are carbon neutral. The reason for small reactors is that they can be built in assembly line fashion and the core reactor can be shipped on a flatbed truck. The reactors will provide power to pump as much water as needed, but will stop pumping water when peak power is needed and start acting as a virtual hydro-storage. For this leg seepage and evaporation losses will be less than 1%.

Leg 4 of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From Kaw Lake to John Martin Reservoir.

Leg 4 of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct: From Kaw Lake to John Martin Reservoir, a distance of about 200 miles.

Elevation 1010′ Volume 428,000 acre-ft

John Martin Reservoir Elevation 3852′ Water volume 340,000 acre-ft

Leg 4 goes over the Ogallala aquifer

The Arkansas River is by now a meandering creek where once was a huge meandering river. The farmers along the river saw the water decline year after year, and in 1902 they sued the farmers upstream. These lawsuits, Kansas v. Colorado are still continuing from time to time. In 1939 the John Martin dam was authorized, with the purpose of flood control. This made matters worse, since the aquifer no longer was refilled by the occasional floods, and the evaporation of the water in the dam diminished the flow overall. In one of the ensuing lawsuits, Kansas won, and was awarded a large sum of money. Kansas objected, they wanted the award in water, not money. This is the story of the thirsty West.

Here is the solution for thirsty Kansas. The Arkansas river is no longer usable, so the aqueduct will be built south of the river, from Kaw Lake to south of Dodge City to the John Martin Reservoir, gradually climbing from 1010 feet to 3852 feet altitude. Figure in a drop of 2 feet per mile to ensure optimum laminar flow and the total rise in the pumping stations will be (3852-1010+2×200 = 3242) feet. The maximum flow of water up the aqueduct will be 11,200 cfs. The total power required pumping this much water will be 3,3 GW. This can best be resolved by having 33 100MW Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors, they are carbon neutral. The reason for small reactors is that they can be built in assembly line fashion and the core reactor can be shipped on a flatbed truck. The reactors will provide power to pump as much water as needed, but will stop pumping water when peak power is needed and start acting as a virtual hydro-storage. There will be drop-off points on the way to provide water for thirsty municipalities. The price of the water for farmers will probably be too high, but towns and industries don’t mind to pay for always available water. For this leg seepage and evaporation losses will be less than 2%.

Leg 3 of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From Keystone Dam to Kaw Dam.

The third leg of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain takes us from from the Keystone dam

Lake level 723′ Lake storage 432,000 Acre-ft

to the Kaw dam

Elevation 1010′ normal 76′ drop

via pumping 11,200 cfs of water up the Arkansas river. The Keystone Lake is 38 miles long and the river part is about 110 miles.

The drop in the river is 211 feet and with a slope of the water of 0.4 feet/mile the total lift need to be 255 feet. This will be accomplished by deepening the Arkansas river channel by 20 feet and build ten 25,5 feet high dams that can open fully and let the water flow freely down the channel. The total capacity of the channel will then be 28,800 cfs. Under normal operation the dams will be closed and water will be pumped up the height of the dam, but when Kaw dam start generating power, the flow will be reversed and all pumps/generators will generate power. When the Kaw dam spillways open, all the dams will open, no power is generated. This will occur rarely, but the function is needed for flood control. The maximum power needed for this leg is 11,200 cfs water pumped up (1010′ -723′ + 110×0,4′) = 329 feet. Assuming pump efficiency of 92% maximum power requirement is 331 MW, best provided with LFTR nuclear reactors. The Kaw dam generates an average of 11.8 MW of power, but a project is under way to remove 1 million gallons/day for municipal water use, removing on average 210 kW generating capacity. Water use will only increase with time.

Leg 2 of The Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From Webbers Falls to Keystone Dam.

The second leg of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct start from Webbers Falls

Elevation 491′

to Keystone Dam, a distance of about 75 miles that is not canal and 25 miles, which is

Elevation 771′ streambed 550′ 2 turbines totaling 70 MW. Normal water level 727′

There is still barge traffic upstream from Webbers falls, so the water level is still controlled by the canal traffic controllers. This means that the volume of water pumped upstream must be subject to the same limitations that was valid for leg 1.

The Arkansas river flows through Tulsa, and in 2019 there was a substantial flood when the release from the Keystone dam peaked out at 310,000cfs after it had rained 22 feet in a short time. On the other hand, there are days with no release at all when the evaporation from the Keystone lake is larger than its inflow. The river flows right through Tulsa with beautiful park trails on top of the banks, and must be preserved and improved.

The proposal is this: Build 4 30′ dams with full opening gates so up to 250,000 cfs can be released. There will be a power house in each, containing two 5,600 cfs pumps/generators. Through Tulsa build three 10′ dams with the same capacity as the four lower dams. Lower the river bed all over by at least six feet to lessen the occurrence of floods. Since the barge canal separates from the Arkansas River before the first new dam on the Arkansas River there is now more liberty to adjust the pumping to meet the electricity needs and momentarily shut off the pumping when energy needs spike.

The water level above the Keystone dam will be kept at conservation pool level of 727′. If heavy rains are anticipated the water level will be allowed to go below conservation pool level. Conversely, when drought periods are expected, the water level is increased in anticipation. This will make the lake more desirable for recreational purposes to have a stable water level at all times, increasing and decreasing much less over time and with only a moderate daily fluctuation.

The Keystone dam power station generating plant will be retrofitted with dual generator/pumps or pumps will be added to be able to lift 11,200 cfs of water into the dam.

The average flow in the river, excluding flood condition is approximately 4,000 cfs. The pump capacity is 11,200 cfs, the total lift is 236 feet, the level drop is assumed to be 0.4 feet/mile for the 75 miles of aqueduct/river, and a pump efficiency of 92% is assumed.

The total power requirement using these parameters would then be 267 MW. When flow is reversed, it can provide up to 218 MW of peak power. There will be 267 MW of LFTR nuclear power available when it is not pumping up water, so for a short time every day it can provide 485 MW of peak power. The loss of power from the Keystone dam current average release will be about 50 MW on average.

Below is a picture of the Arkansas River with sandbanks. It will have a number of small lakes with about 10 feet of water depth, mostly flowing up river, but gently flowing down river during peak power demand.

Leg 1 of The Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From the Mississippi river to Webbers Falls lock and dam.

The Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct starts out at the Mississippi river, and for the first leg follows the Arkansas River from Mississippi River to Lock16 of the Arkansas River, a distance of 366 miles.

Location of the locks and pumping stations on the Arkansas river.

Lock 1, entrance from the Mississippi River to the White river. The water surface at Montgomery Point has fluctuated from elevation 104′ to 172′.

This lock was added later to better accommodate barge traffic when the Mississippi River was running abnormally low. If the Mississippi is normal to high level, this lock is bypassed. Since we are going to move 11,200 cfs of water over the rocky mountain the flow amount in Arkansas river will be reduced by the same amount. In times of drought, the Arkansas River flow is sometimes lower than 11,200 cfs. To alleviate that, a series of 7,500 cfs pumps will be installed, one in every lock of the canal, beginning with Lock 1. They will be in use only as needed, probably less than 10% of the time.

Montgomery Point Lock and Dam features “first of its kind” hydraulically operated gates. When the tail water is at elevation 115′ and rising, the dam gates are flat on the bottom of the river and barge traffic passes over the gates in the navigation pass spillway to minimize lockages saving time and money.

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Elevation 142′ Add one 7,500 cps pump
Elevation 162′ Add one 7,500 cps pump

Elevation 182′
Elevation 1196′
Elevation 213′
Elevation 231′
Elevation 249
Elevation 265′
Elevation 284′
Elevation 336′
Elevation 370′
Elevation 391′
Elevation 412′
Elevation 458′
Elevation 487′

From Lock # 3 to lock # 16 (13 locks # 11 is missing) the Power houses have to either replace one of the operating turbines to a corresponding dual function pump/generator, or add a 7,500 cfs pump.

By removing 11,200 cfs from the flow of water in the Arkansas river, it will be necessary to add these pumps to ensure functioning locks even in times of extreme droughts. The total power generated by the power stations will be reduced by 11,200 cfs times (487 – 127) feet * 0.9 or about 370 megawatts total if there is no water released by the spillways. This is the maximum power loss. If the river flow more than about 55,000 cfs there less loss of power, tapering off , so at 67,000 cfs there is no loss of power.

As a side note, every lock opening uses up water equivalent of between 22 and 66 kWh depending on the size of the lift or lowering of the barges. This is constant and not dependent on the size of the barges or boats. When the spillways are in use, the water is “free”, but otherwise every lock opening costs a few dollars in energy, not much, but in case of a drought the fact that water is pumped back up the river will help increase the capacity.

What is in it for Arkansas? The added pumps will give an additional tool to control the canal system. In addition, in the case of floods it will somewhat alleviate the flood control, and serve the canal system better in times of drought. To add 370 megawatts to the system, may I suggest 2 200 MW LFTR nuclear reactors, they are carbon neutral.