Lake Mead and Lake Powell are emptying fast. The solution: The Trans-Rocky-Mountain Aqueduct. Expensive, but very doable.

(Quoted partly from Joanna Allhands, Arizona Republic.) The seven Colorado River basin states have a plan to temporarily stabilize Lake Powell. The states are: Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and California.

It is a temporary delay of a very painful decision, it doesn’t rain enough in the Colorado River basin to provide enough water for the ever increasing population, now exceeding 40 million, five times more as when the Hoover dam was built.

Yet no one balked. And that’s a win.

That should signal how dire the circumstances have become.

The U.S. Department of the Interior noted in an April 8 letter to the basin states that Lake Powell is dangerously close to hitting 3,490 feet of elevation, a level so low that power could no longer be generated at Glen Canyon Dam and water could no longer flow to the nearby city of Page and an adjacent Navajo Nation community.

Because water could no longer flow through the power turbines, millions of acre-feet of water would flow downstream through smaller backup pipes at the base of Glen Canyon Dam – a risky prospect that could spell calamity for Lake Mead, which relies on Powell’s releases, if any one of those four pipes were damaged by the heavy flows and had to shut down.

nterior proposed taking the unprecedented action of withholding 480,000 acre-feet (that’s more than 156 billion gallons) in Lake Powell that otherwise should have flowed to Lake Mead, among other measures.

Two weeks later, the seven states responded with a singular voice: We get how dire this is, and we’re on board.

“We recognize the urgency created by current conditions in the Basin; in fact, hydrologic conditions in the Basin have continued to decline since your April 8, 2022, letter to the Governors’ representatives,” they wrote in an April 22 response. “It is our collective judgment that additional cooperative actions should be taken this spring to reduce the risk of Lake Powell declining below critical elevations.”

That means the upper basin states will agree to release 500,000 acre-feet from the upstream Flaming Gorge Reservoir, as part of a newly cemented 2022 Drought Response Operations Plan. (That’s a lot more than the 161,000 acre-feet that was released from upstream reservoirs last year to prop up Lake Powell.)

Meanwhile, the lower basin states, including Arizona, will agree to keep 480,000 acre-feet in Powell, though the states have asked for that amount not to count against shortage determinations.

What does that mean for shortages at Lake Mead?

The idea, however ill-conceived, is not to use Mead’s actual elevation to determine which shortage tier we’d be in, but rather as if that 480,000 acre-feet were in Mead and not Powell.

It’s not clear how the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the reservoirs, would make that calculation, but the outcome could have real consequences.

The most recent forecast projects elevations as if that 480,000 acre-feet had flowed from Powell to Mead. It puts Mead a few inches above the trigger elevation of 1,045 feet in August, when the following year’s shortage determination is made.

That would put us in a deeper Tier 2 shortage, regardless.

But depending on which side of 1,045 feet we land, we could either fall in a Tier 2a or Tier 2b shortage – which for Arizona is the difference between making previously agreed cuts of 592,000 acre-feet or 640,000 acre-feet.

A Tier 2b shortage also would trigger more stringent water conservation actions in Scottsdale and Tucson. That could mean the imposition of drought surcharges in both cities and, in Scottsdale, the potential for mandatory restrictions.

I know. If we base shortage decisions off where the lake should be, but not really is, we’re making conditions look better than they are. Which doesn’t help us in the long run, even if we could temporarily avoid the pain of Tier 2b.

We extinguished a fire to focus on other work

But, importantly, the states also have agreed that “water year 2023 releases should be carefully monitored and be the subject of consultation with the Basin States to preserve the benefits to Glen Canyon Dam … .”

Translation: Whatever actions we take and shortage levels we set for 2023 will get another look, likely in late winter or early spring, when we have a better idea of the year’s runoff picture, to determine whether we need to do more.

It’s a level of flexibility that we haven’t traditionally had – but will likely need – when lake levels are so low and volatile.

None of this solves anything, of course. Even a combined million acre-feet from the states will likely just prolong the inevitable, hopefully long enough to better assess the strength of Powell’s backup pipes.

And to resume the tough work of storing an extra 500,000 acre-feet each year for the next five years in Lake Mead as part of the 500-plus plan. Without that extra water each year, the lake mostly likely will sink below 1,020 feet of elevation – Mead’s version of the dangerously low level that Powell has already reached.

And – most importantly – to finally sit down and talk about longer-term solutions for the Colorado River, most notably how much water we can reliably expect it to produce. It sure as heck isn’t the 15 million acre-feet that we’ve been apportioned.

Imperfect as this response may be, it’s significant that all seven states agreed to it quickly, so we can get back to the many other pressing tasks at hand.

Reach Allhands at joanna.allhands@arizonarepublic.com. On Twitter: @joannaallhands.

There is a solution:

The Trans-Rocky-Mountain Aqueduct will save Lake Powell and Lake Mead, and rejuvenate the American South-west. This solution is expensive, but when all costs are included, it can deliver 3.6 to 6 Million acre-feet / year at a cost of $2,290 per af, high, check the calculations here. This is the solution that can be done in the shortest time.

The other solution is The TransContinental Aqueduct. A realistic way to save Lake Mead and reverse the desertification of the American SouthWest. It will really do the job at a lower price per Acre-ft but require much more capital investment. Check out the cost estimates here. This estimate is on the high side. but was a earnest stab at the costs.

Is it worth it to save the American Southwest from being desertified? In my opinion, if we are serious about saving the earth, this is one of the most urgent projects that deserves consideration.

The Trans-Rocky-Mountain Aqueduct; Cost estimates. Will it pay for itself?

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 2022 dollars that would be about 13.5 billion. The cost for the canal would be about 12.6 billion and 900 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 acre-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. It has a 7 mile long, 22 feet diameter tunnel from Lake Havasu to the beginning of the waterway.

The Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct is much bigger: The The average size of the aqueduct in its beginning is 160 feet across the top and 80 feet across the bottom and the water is 35 feet deep. The concrete is 4 inches thick and, in most areas, it is reinforced with steel rebars. The concrete used is 4,500 cu yd per mile. It will cost about 2.5 times as much per mile as the ACP, so the total cost for the Trans-Rocky-Mountain Aqueduct will be ((12.6x 2.5 : 336) x 480) = 45 billion dollars. Like the CAP, it will have an 8 mile tunnel, and its diameter will be 48 feet. This cost estimate is probably high, since eminent domain costs will be minimal; all the dams already exist and are paid for, the Arkansas river is there, complete with dams; and land for all the reservoirs are already litigated and settled. The canal will go through sparsely inhabited land.

The cost of building 17 additional small dams in the Arkansas River will be on the order of $120 million per dam, for a total of $2 Billion.

There will be a total of 7.4 GW of pumped energy needed and 200 MW of base power generated. To get the aqueduct operational at 6 MAF/year it requires 7.4 GW of energy. Pumping cost capital is about $ 1.30 per watt, so the minimum pumping capital cost is 9.6 Billion dollars.

The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors proposed is 100 MW units. so called Small Modular Reactors (SMR) The reactor core assemblies are small enough so they can be produced on an assembly line and delivered via truck. There are 3 assemblies needed, the reactor, the safe shutdown unit and the reprocessing and separation unit. The whole building can be built for $ 230 million. To complete the installation costs, add another # 30 million per unit. The aqueduct needs 74 units. The initial capital cost for grid access and minimum flow is $19 billion.

To sum it up,the capital cost for a flow of 6 MAF is (45 +2 + 9.6 + 19) = 75.6 billion dollars. The amount of water in the aqueduct when filled is 230,000 acre-feet and will take 1.1 TWh of electricity to fill, or about $35,000dollars at 3 c/kWh base rate.

When the electricity demand requires peak power, the pumps are turned off, and electricity will be sold back to the grid, at peak rate.

Solar power and wind power will also power the pumps, and they will lessen the demand for nuclear reactors. But the remaining reactors will still be needed, or peak power will still have to be supplied by natural gas, or coal when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.

In short: assuming a 50 year amortization plan for the aqueduct, and money available at 2%, , it will cost 3 billion a year in capital cost to deliver 6 MAF water from the Mississippi River to Lake Powell or any point in between, or $2,000 per acre-ft. Add to that $240 for electricity and another $50 per acre-ft in overhead and maintenance, the cost will be $2,290 per acre-ft.

The Rocky Mountains 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 Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct will provide up to 7.4 GW of pure virtual pumped power storage, the LFTR nuclear power plants will provide the energy by shutting off the pumping of water in the aqueduct when the need arises, and instead provide another up to 7.4 GW of virtual pumped storage power. The beauty of this is that the pump response is instantaneous, so the grid can be really finetuned to meet the exact power needs.

Earth day 2022. It’s all about water in the thirsty American Southwest.

It’s time for the annual earth day

to celebrate Lenin’s old birthday.

Let us plant some more trees

bring the water, yes please.

A Trans-Rocky-Mountain waterway.

The American Southwest is beginning to become desertified. More water is used up than falls in the Colorado River. All water and more is spoken for. The Gila River used to provide about 1.3 Million acre-feet yearly to Arizona. It is now all used up, and the aquifers are being depleted. Since 40 million people are dependent on the Colorado River and the Gila river and the population is rapidly growing the only real solution is to bring in more water to the American South-west. It will be expensive and require a lot of power, but the alternative is a depopulation of the American South-west. Something like it did already happen when the rivers Amu Darya and Sur Darya became used for irrigation and the Aral Lake dried up, the rains ended and the land east of the lake became more or less a desert.

Here are two proposals to save the American Southwest, Lake Mead, Lake Powell Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, West Texas, Mexico, South California, Nevada and help Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas with their water shortage and pumped water storage.

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

The TransContinental Aqueduct. A realistic way to save Lake Mead and reverse the desertification of the American SouthWest.

Together they will double the amount of water provided to the American Southwest and more than triple the amount of pumped storage capacity for the whole nation. When we shift from gas and diesel to electric vehicles the pumped storage capacity must be increased, or the extra electricity must still be provided by fossil fuels. Solar and wind power requires pumped storage to reduce the strain on the electric grid, when the cars need to be re-charged at lunch and dinner time.

The best new green deal ever. Save the American South West and make it green! This is how.

President Biden had the U.S. join the Paris accord and we are once again in accord with the IPCC and UN. Unfortunately, if we comply with all the requirements of the Paris accord we will lower the temperature increase by only 0.05C by 2030, and by only 0.17C by 2100. See the reasons why this is so here. How can that be? It is because the real climate change is not mainly caused by increasing CO2 and Methane. No, these are only minor players compared to land use changes such as deforestation, aquifer depletion, urbanization, erosion and so on.

One of the worst consequences of government controlled land use changes is the disappearance of Lake Aral in Asia, the fourth largest lake in the world. It provided a sensitive, but functioning Eco-system for a large portion of South East Soviet Union and western Afghanistan. Then the central planners wanted to improve the productivity of the area through irrigation and changing land management. In the 1960s and 1970s the Soviets started using the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya rivers to irrigate extensive cotton fields in the Central Asian plain. The results can be seen in these 6 Satellite photos

Disaster is a mild word. The lake was the source of the rains that fell up-stream. With the lake gone, the rivers dried up completely, and the whole upland became desert-like. There has been efforts to restore the upper part of the lake with a dam, but that will do nothing to reverse the desertification.

Another land use change is urbanization. This produces an urban heat island that can increase the temperature in the city by as much as 4C compared to forested surroundings.

Yes, there is significant climate change for the people living in the downtown areas. It is called urbanization. The globe as a whole does not experience it, but the people living in the asphalt jungles surely do. One could turn off the air conditioners, but their contribution is less than one degree on average. Far bigger is the fact that the albedo changes, the ground dries up, and when it rains it all gets flushed out in the streams or simply evaporates on the burning hot asphalt or concrete. One hour after the rain it is as hot as before.

Another climate change occurs when forested land is cleared but not replanted, or when land is overgrazed down to the roots. In these cases the streams dry out hillsides and floodplains, and flash floods occur instead of steady streams, and erosion causes major damages. And so it is with much of the American Southwest. The average temperature increase from deforestation and overgrazing is usually around 1C. This video explains it much better than may words. There is still hope, but it will take work

Why can’t this be done here in the dry American southwest? It involves water rights. Unless the property owner owns the water rights to the land the owns he has no right to harvest any of the rain that falls on it. If he improves the land with a road or a structure with a roof, all the rain that falls on it must be going to the river, and eventually to Lake Mead to prevent it from going dry. In the Eastern United states water rights are automatic, they are in fact water responsibilities. If you improve the land and build a road, parking lot or a structure with a roof, you must build a catch basin big enough to capture all the extra runoff generated by the rain falling on the improved land. Farmers are encouraged to build swales to minimize erosion and runoff of fertilizer and pesticide. This should also be done in the dry parts of the country, there their erosion problems are even worse. The way to do it is determined by local factors and should be decided at the local or regional level. When the federal government gets involved they tend to mandate one solution for all, and the needs for Arizona is quite different from the needs for Louisiana when it comes to water.

Here is the suggestion: Give this challenge to all local Universities and High School biology departments. Make a competition to come up with the best local solutions to restore the American Southwest if the water rights belonged to the land. The only limits are; you can not dam established creeks and you cannot draw water from the aquifers. The indigenous people once knew how to do it. Unfortunately, the American Southwest can suffer multiyear droughts, and, unlike in India, the monsoons can fail. The greening that occurred in the five projects mentioned in the video above should act as an inspiration. The greening that will occur will lower the temperature, drastically reduce erosion, provide a more permanent water flow in the rivers, and reduce flooding.

When the Hoover dam was built the population in the American south west was around seven million. Now the population dependent on the water from the Colorado river is over 40 million, and growing. Not only is the Colorado River water supply insufficient, but the aquifers are being depleted, and the desertification is starting to set in. Looking at a precipitation map of the U.S. there is one obvious solution.

Green areas have enough water, orange, brown or red areas are water sparse.

Bring water from the east to the west! There is only one big problem: The Rocky Mountains are in the way. The water must be lifted around 8,000 feet before it will start to flow downhill again. To lift one acre-ft of water one foot requires about 1.08 kWh. Some energy is regained on the way down, but the net energy needed is around 5,000 kWh per acre-ft of water delivered to the thirsty American South-west.

This proposal is to deliver up to 23.75 million acre-feet of water annually to the thirsty American South-west. It will consist of three aqueducts:

The first one is called the South Platte Aqueduct and will serve Eastern Colorado and help save the High Plains Aquifer, also called the Ogallala Aquifer. It is sketched out here. It is quite modest, only up to 750,000 acre-ft pumped annually, and while the aqueduct will be built to this capacity only 375,000 acre-feet will be initially needed. For now, it will serve about 5 million people.

The second is the Trans-Rocky-Mountain Aqueduct. It will serve the upper Colorado River Basin and the upper Rio Grande Basin. When fully used it will pump 8 million acre-ft yearly from the Mississippi/Arkansas River. It is more fully described here .

The third is the Transcontinental Aqueduct. It will serve the Lower Colorado River Basin, Southern New Mexico and Western Texas. It will pump up to 15 million acre-ft of water annually from the Atchafalaya river (Mississippi river bypass) all the way to southern Colorado River. It is described more fully here.

The total electricity need to accomplish this giant endeavor is about 120 billion kWh annually. or about three percent of the current US electricity demand. In 2020 the US produced 1,586 billion kWh from natural gas, 956 from coal, 337.5 from wind and 90.9 from solar.

For this giant project to have any chance of success there has to be something in it to be gained from every state that will be participating. Here are some of the benefits:

Arizona: Arizona needs more water. The water from Mississippi is less saline and better suited for agriculture and the people growth makes it necessary to provide more water sources. Right now the aquifers are being depleted. Then what? One example: The San Carlos lake is nearly dry half the time and almost never filled to capacity. With the aqueduct supplying water it can be filled to 80 +- 20% of full capacity all the time. In the event of a very large snow melt the lake level can be reduced in advance to accommodate the extra flow. Likewise during Monsoon season the aqueduct flow can be reduced in anticipation of large rain events. Arizona together with New Mexico has the best locations for solar power, but is lacking the water necessary for hydro-power storage. This proposal will add 13.6 GW of hydro-power storage capable of adding 68 GWh of electric peak power daily.

Arkansas: The main benefit for Arkansas is better flood control and river control of the Arkansas River and allowing it to deepen the draft for canal barges from 9,5 feet to 12 feet, which is standard on the Mississippi river.

California: The water aqueduct serving Los Angeles will be allowed to use maximum capacity at all times. Additional water resources will be given the greater San Diego area. The Imperial valley will be given sweet Mississippi water, which will improve agriculture yield. The polluted New River will be cut off at the Mexico border. There will be water allocated to the Salton Sea. There is a proposal to mine the world’s largest Lithium ore, mining the deep brine, rich in Lithium. (about a third of the world supply according to one estimate). This requires water, and as a minimum requirement 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. It used to be a great vacation spot.

Colorado: The future water needs from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs metropolitan area will be met. In addition the Pueblo area will be allowed to use more of the Arkansas River water, since the John Martin Reservoir will be filled by the Trans-Rocky Mountain aqueduct.

Kansas: It will get a reliable water supply to serve Wichita and all towns along the Arkansas River in times of drought and to serve additional water needs at all times. It will also improve flood control along the river.

Louisiana: The main benefit for Louisiana is: By siphoning off up to 23.75 million acre-ft/year from the Mississippi river it will lower the flow through the lower Mississippi, especially New Orleans, reducing flood risk. By making these aqueducts the whole Mississippi/Missouri watershed will be incentivized to make sure the river waters are clean enough to be able to use as water supply. This will positively affect 40% of the continental United States landmass.

Mexico: During the negotiations about who was going to get the water in Lake Mead Mexico did not get enough water, so they have been using all remaining water for irrigation, and no water is reaching the ocean anymore. In addition the water is too salty for ideal irrigation. This proposal will provide sweet Mississippi water to Mexico, ensure that some water reaches the Colorado river delta. This will restore the important ecology and restore aquatic life in the delta and the gulf. The town of Mexicali will get some water in exchange for shutting off New River completely.

Nebraska: One of the benefits for Nebraska is that it will help save the Ogallala aquifer. The farmers close to the aqueduct will use pumped water from Missouri rather than draw from the aquifers.

Nevada: Las Vegas is a catastrophe waiting to happen unless Lake Mead is saved. With this proposal there will be ample opportunity to make the desert bloom.

New Mexico: The state is ideally suited for solar panels. In addition to give much needed water to communities along the length of the aqueduct, it will provide 10.5 GW of hydro-power storage to be made available at peak power usage for up to 5 hours a day.

Oklahoma: The main advantage for Oklahoma is a much improved flood control, especially through the City of Tulsa. It will provide the same advantage for river barge traffic as benefits Arkansas.

Texas: The state has a big problem. It has already built up too much wind power and can not give up their coal burning power plants until the electricity is better balanced. They have no hydro-electric power storage at all, and we saw the result of that in last year’s cold snap. This proposal will give the Texas electric grid 18.5 GW of hydro-electric power for up to 5 hours a day.

Utah: The state will no longer be bound to provide water to Lake Mead, but can use all of its water rights for Utah, especially the Salt Lake City region.

Wyoming: The state will be free to use the water in the Green River and all the yearly allocated 1.05 million acre-feet of water can be used by the state of Wyoming.

The cost to do all these aqueducts will be substantial, but it can be done for less than 400 billion dollars in 2021 money, and that includes the cost of providing power generation. Considering it involves 40 million people dependent on the Colorado River now and another 10 million east of the Rocky Mountains, it is well worth doing, much more importand to do than other “green” projects, since it will save the American Southwest from becoming an uninhabitable desert.

This proposed solution cannot be made possible without changing our approach to power generation. The mantra now is to solve all our power needs through renewables. Texas has shown us that too much wind power without any hydroelectric power storage can lead to disaster. In addition, windmills kill birds, even threatening some species, such as the Golden Eagle and other large raptors that like to build their aeries on top of the generators. Solar panels work best in arid, sunny climate, such as Arizona and New Mexico, but the panels need cooling and cleaning to work best, and that takes water. They are even more dependent on hydro-power storage than wind. The transcontinental aqueduct will triple the hydro-electric power storage for the nation, and the Trans-Rocky-Mountain will add to it. Without hydro-electric power storage we still need all the conventional power generation capacity for when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.

Conventional Nuclear power plants doesn’t work in most places since they depend on water for their cooling, and most of these aqueducts pump water in near deserts, and there would be too much evaporation losses to use water from the aqueducts for cooling.

The only realistic approach would be to use LFTR power plants. (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors). There are many advantages for using LFTR. Here are 30 reasons why LFTRs is by far the best choice.

For this project to succeed there must be developed a better way to build SMRs (Small Modular Reactors, less than 250 MW) more effectively. The price to build a LFTR plant should be less than $2.50 per watt. While the LFTR science is well understood, the LFTR engineering is not fully developed yet, but will be ready in less than 5 years if we get to it. In the mean time there should be built one or more assembly plants that can mass produce LFTR reactor vessels small enough so they can be shipped on a normal flatbed trailer through the normal highway system. My contention is that a 100 MW reactor vessel can be built this way and the total cost per plant will be less than 250 Million dollars. To save the American Southwest we will need about 350 of them, or 87,5 billion dollars total. This cost is included in the total calculation. There will be many more of these plants produced to produce all the electric power to power all the electric vehicles that are going to be built. This is the way to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Just switching to electric vehicles will not do the trick. The electric energy must come from somewhere. To convert all cars and trucks and with unchanging driving habits will require another 600 GW of generating capacity by 2050, our present “net zero emissions” goal.

To do this project we need cooperation from all states in providing dominant domain access. The Federal government will need to approve LFTR as the preferred Nuclear process and streamline approval from many years to less than one year.

Let’s get going!

The greening of the drying American South-West. Yes, it can and should be done.

Ever since beginning of time the battle has been about water. The garden of Eden was watered by four rivers, but ever since Adam and Eve were exiled from it, water has been the major concern. In the Middle East the first treaty between Abraham and Abimelech was about water and who was to control it. In Exodus 7:19 (NIV) The LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs—and they will turn to blood.’ In Ezra 8:15 concerning the return to Jerusalem Ezra wrote: I assembled them at the canal that flows toward Ahava, and we camped there three days. In Daniel 8:2 Daniel wrote “In my vision I saw myself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam; in the vision I was beside the Ulai Canal.” And in Isaiah 19:6 Isaiah Prophesied “The canals will stink; the streams of Egypt will dwindle and dry up.” This means the Nile River would still flow, but the intricate canal system would fail.

The Romans built many aqueducts. Rome had 11 aqueducts to supply it with water. One of the most impressive aqueducts is the Segovia Aqueduct in Spain.

This aqueduct has been maintained through the centuries and supplied Segovia with water as late as the 19th century.

Even in the dry American south-west canals have been built for irrigation in the past, check out this video from the Arizona State University:

When the Hoover dam was built the population in the American south west was around seven million. Now the population dependent on the water from the Colorado river is over 40 million, and growing. Not only is the Colorado River water supply insufficient, but the aquifers are being depleted, and the desertification is starting to set in. Looking at a precipitation map of the u.s there is one obvious solution.

Green areas have enough water, orange, brown or red areas are water sparse.

Bring water from the east to the west! There is only one big problem: The Rocky Mountains are in the way. The water must be lifted around 8,000 feet before it will start to flow downhill again. To lift one acre-ft of water one foot requires about 1.08 kWh. Some energy is regained on the way down, but the net energy needed is around 5,000 kWh per acre-ft of water delivered to the thirsty American South-west.

This proposal is to deliver up to 23.75 million acre-feet of water annually to the thirsty American South-west. It will consist of three aqueducts:

The first one is called the South Platte Aqueduct and will serve the Eastern Colorado and help save the High Plains Aquifer, also called the Ogallala Aquifer. It is sketched out here. It is quite modest, only up to 750,000 acre-ft pumped annually, and while the aqueduct will be built to this capacity only 375,000 acrefeet will be initially needed. For now, it will serve about 5 million people.

The second is the Trans-Rocky-Mountain Aqueduct. It will serve the upper Colorado River Basin and the upper Rio Grande Basin. When fully used it will pump 8 million acre-ft yearly from the Mississippi/Arkansas River. It is more fully described here .

The third is the Transcontinental Aqueduct. It will serve the Lower Colorado River Basin, Southern New Mexico and Western Texas. It will pump up to 15 million acre-ft of water annually from the Atchafalaya river (Mississippi river bypass) all the way to the southern Colorado River. It is described more fully here.

The total electricity need to accomplish this giant endeavor is about 120 billion kWh annually. or about three percent of the total US electricity demand. In 2020 the US produced 1,586 billion kWh from natural gas, 956 from coal, 337.5 from wind and 90.9 from solar.

For this giant project to have any chance of success there has to be something in it to be gained from every state that will be participating. Here are the benefits

Arizona: Arizona needs more water. The water from Mississippi is less saline and better suited for agriculture and the people growth makes it necessary to provide more water sources. Right now the aquifers are being depleted. Then what? One example: The San Carlos lake is nearly dry half the time and almost never filled to capacity. With the aqueduct supplying water it can be filled to 80 +- 20% of full capacity all the time. In the event of a very large snow melt the lake level can be reduced in advance to accommodate the extra flow. Likewise during Monsoon season the aqueduct flow can be reduced in anticipation of large rain events. Arizona together with New Mexico has the best locations for solar power, but is lacking the water necessary for hydro-power storage. This proposal will add 13.6 GW of hydro-power storage capable of adding 68 GWh of electric peak power daily.

Arkansas: The main benefit for Arkansas is better flood control and river control and allowing to deepen the draft for the canal barges from 9,5 feet to 12 feet, which is standard on the Mississippi river.

California: The water aqueduct serving Los Angeles will be allowed to use maximum capacity at all times. Additional water resources will be given the greater San Diego area. The Imperial valley will be given sweet Mississippi water, which will improve agriculture yield. The polluted New River will be cut off. There will be water allocated to the Salton Sea. Proposed will be the to mine world’s largest Lithium ore, mining the deep brine, rich in Lithium. (about a third of the world supply according to one estimate). This requires water, and as a minimum requirement 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. It used to be a great vacation spot.

Colorado: The future water needs from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs metropolitan area will be met. In addition the Pueblo area will be allowed to use more of the Arkansas River water, since the John Martin Reservoir will be filled by the Trans-Rocky Mountain reservoir.

Kansas: It will get a reliable water supply to serve Wichita and all towns along the Arkansas River in times of drought and to serve additional water needs at all times. It will also improve flood control along the river.

Louisiana: The main benefit for Louisiana is: By siphoning off up to 23.75 million acre-ft/year from the Mississippi river it will lower the flow through the lower Mississippi, especially New Orleans, reducing flood risk. By making these aqueducts the whole Mississippi/Missouri watershed will be incentivized to make sure the river waters are clean enough to be able to use as water supply. This will positively affect 40% of the continental United States landmass.

Mexico: During the negotiations who was going to get the water in Lake Mead Mexico did not get enough water, so they have been using all remaining water for irrigation, and no water is reaching the ocean anymore. In addition the water is too salty for ideal irrigation. This proposal will provide sweet Mississippi water to Mexico, ensure that some water reaches the Colorado river delta. This will restore the important ecology and restore aquatic life in the delta and the gulf. The town of Mexicali will get some water in exchange for shutting off New River completely.

Nebraska: One of the benefits for Nebraska is that it will help save the Ogallala aquifer. The farmers close to the aqueduct will use pumped water from Missouri rather than draw from the aquifers.

Nevada: Las Vegas is a catastrophe waiting to happen unless Lake Mead is saved. With this proposal there will be ample opportunity to make the desert bloom.

New Mexico: The state is ideally suited for solar panels. In addition to give much needed water to communities along the length of the aqueduct, it will provide 10.5 GW of hydro-power storage to be made available at peak power usage for up to 5 hours a day.

Oklahoma: The main advantage for Oklahoma is a much improved flood control, especially through the City of Tulsa. It will provide the same advantage for river barge traffic as benefits Arkansas.

Texas: The state has a big problem. It has already built up too much wind power and can not give up their coal burning power plants until the electricity is better balanced. They have no hydro-electric power storage at all, and we saw the result of that in last year’s cold snap This proposal will give them 18.5 GW of hydro-electric power for up to 5 hours a day.

Utah: The state will no longer be bound to provide water to Lake Mead, but can use all of its water rights for Utah, especially the Salt Lake City region.

Wyoming: The state will be free to use the water in the Green River and all the yearly allocated 1.05 million acre-feet of water can be used by the state of Wyoming.

The cost to do all these aqueducts will be substantial, but it can be done for less than 400 billion dollars in 2021 money, and that includes the cost of providing power generation. Considering it involves 40 million people dependent on the Colorado River now and another 10 million east of the Rocky Mountains, it is well worth doing, much more than other “green” projects, since it will save the American Southwest from becoming an uninhabitable desert.

This proposed solution cannot be made possible without changing our approach to power generation. The mantra now is to solve all our power needs through renewables. Texas has shown us that too much wind power without any hydroelectric power storage can lead to disaster. In addition, windmills kill birds, even threatening some species, such as the Golden Eagle and other large raptors that like to build their aeries on top of the generators. Solar panels work best in arid, sunny climate, such as Arizona and New Mexico, but the panels need cooling and cleaning to work best, and that takes water. They are even more dependent on hydro-power storage than wind. The transcontinental aqueduct will triple the hydro-electric power storage for the nation, and the Trans-Rocky-Mountain will add to it. Without hydro-electric power storage we still need all the conventional power generation capacity for when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.

Conventional Nuclear power plants doesn’t work either since they depend on water for their cooling, and most of these aqueducts pump water in near deserts, and there would be too much evaporation losses to use the aqueduct’s water for cooling.

The only realistic approach would be to use LFTR power plants. (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors). There are many advantages for using LFTR. Here are 30 0f them.

For this project to succeed there must be developed a better way to build small nuclear plants more effectively. The price to build a LFTR plant must be less than $2.50 per watt. The LFTR technology is not fully developed yet, but will be ready in less than 5 years. In the mean time there should be built one or more assembly plants that can mass produce LFTR reactor vessels small enough so they can be shipped on a normal flatbed trailer through the normal highway system. My contention is that a 100 MW reactor vessel can be built this way and the total cost per plant will be less than 250 Million dollars. To save the American Southwest we will need about 350 of them, or 87,5 billion dollars total. This cost is included in the total calculation. There will be many more of these plants produced to produce all the electric power to power all the electric vehicles that are going to be built. This is the way to reduce fossil fuels. Just switching to electric vehicles will not do the trick. The energy must come from somewhere.

Let’s get going!

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. Total length 15miles of aqueduct and 335 miles of river. Cost of water 333 kWh per acre-ft.

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. Cost of water 593 kWh per acre-ft.

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. Cost of water 901 kWh per acre-ft.

Leg 4 of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From Kaw Lake to John Martin Reservoir, a distance of about 200 miles. Cost of water 4,446 kWh per acre-ft.

Leg 5 of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From John Martin Reservoir to Trinidad Lake, a distance of about 120 miles. Cost of water 7,300 kWh per acre-ft.

Leg 6 of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From Trinidad Lake to Abiquiu Reservoir, a distance of 90 miles. Cost of water 7,910 kWh per acre-ft.

Leg 7 of the Trans-Rocky-Mountain aqueduct. From the Abiquiu Reservoir to the San Juan River, a distance of 55 miles. Cost of water 7,395 kWh per acre-ft.

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%.