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Friday, December 9, 2022

New analysis doubts plan to send Mississippi River water to southwestern reservoirs

Roger Viadero, an environmental scientist, had to squint when he read news stories about the ravenous need for water from the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes in Palm Springs and Las Vegas, among other western places, last summer.

With suggestions from readers to withdraw around 22 billion gallons of water per day from the Midwest, the letters sections of the Palm Springs Desert Sun newspaper in June smashed their own records for online traffic. A network of canals and reservoirs could allegedly pump water from the flood-prone Mississippi River to the Colorado River, resolving the Southwest’s water dilemma for the benefit of all parties.

The letter authors claimed that aqueducts, pipelines, and open channels could readily solve the problem by moving water from Minnesota and the surrounding area to drier regions. A reader stated, “With an aqueduct from the Mississippi River, we could fill Lake Powell in less than a year.” Another person wrote, “It’s about will.

Viadero, a board-certified environmental engineer and skeptic, was prompted by the proposals to discuss their viability with his students at Western Illinois University, where he serves as the director of the environmental science doctoral program from the school’s Moline campus, which is situated along the Mississippi River not far from the state’s border with Iowa.

In an interview on Monday, Viadero, head of the university’s Institute for Environmental Studies, referred to the severe drought and low water levels in the Midwest and said, “The idea we have this wealth of water, it’s simply a myth.”

He said, “We sent astronauts to the moon. “The moon wasn’t sent to us. People comment in a variety of ways on what they saw or heard on Facebook. We’re attempting to provide them with some resources to aid in decision-making.

On October 17, he and two PhD candidates, E. A 21-page technical examination of the “physical, economic, and environmental significance” of possibly diverting trillions of gallons of water from the Mississippi River to the lower Colorado River was published by Dave Thomas and Samuel Babatunde.

They delivered their white paper at the Upper Mississippi River Conference in Moline two days later with the intention of having it vetted by academics and published in a scholarly publication.

The scientists saw a dearth of data that the general public might utilize to evaluate the viability of these initiatives. This has left a hole that is being filled by plans that, among other things, lack realistic objectives, break a number of physical principles, and have a poor sense of scale.

In a nutshell, what were their findings?

They said that “time, space, ecology, money, and politics aren’t on the side of water diverters.”

As proposed by Desert Sun readers, it would take 21.6 billion gallons of water to fill the Washington Monument 2,600 times every day in order to fill Lake Mead and Lake Powell in less than two years.

The scientists looked at water discharge rates by Vicksburg, Miss., and discovered that diverting about 250,000 gallons of Mississippi River water per second would lower the average downstream flow by about 8%, by 5.6 % during flood conditions, and by 17 % in comparison to times of low water discharge.

The experts laughed at ideas that would spare taxpayers from having to construct and maintain flood levees and other forms of infrastructure along the Mississippi River and its major tributaries. They pointed out that the cost of responding to, rebuilding after, and recovering from floods in the Midwest and Southern Plains was projected at $20 billion in 2019.

The cost to fill both lakes would be at least $134.8 billion, or 6.7 times the cost of the response to the Mississippi River floods three years ago, even if the value of the diverted river water was only one penny per gallon.

The additional expenditures for acquiring land, designing and building a conveyance system, treating water, and providing for yearly operation and maintenance are not included in those totals.

What sort of mechanism could move that volume of water? According to the experts, an open canal would have to span a vast portion of the United States and be 100 feet wide and 61 feet deep, or 1,000 feet wide and 6 feet deep.

The communities and states along the projected 1,200–1,600 mile river expressway would need to gain strong political support for a waterway that would be at least as wide as an interstate highway. Without considering its foundation, the canal alone would require over 1.9 billion yards of material to be dug during construction.

Instead of an open channel, a closed pipe would create a building with a diameter of 88 feet, or roughly the width of 1 1/2 semi-trailers.

The continental divide’s rugged passage is another issue. The Old River Control Structure, the Mississippi River floodgate system in central Louisiana, is nearly 4,600 feet higher than Lake Powell. Twelve miles to the east of Santa Fe, New Mexico, the highest height is 11,000 feet. Although the U.S. The experts stated that although the Army Corps of Engineers controls strong pumps, “their lift capabilities are quite limited.”

The paper also briefly discussed issues outside of engineering, such the possibility of invasive species like bighead and silver carp migrating west from the Midwest and its rivers.

Nitrogen levels in Mississippi River water are about 6.8 times higher than those in Lake Mead, on average. 250,000 gallons per second, or 69 million pounds, of water. of nitrogen would be transported west over the period of 1.5 years, presumably requiring expensive further treatment.

Although the scientists avoided discussing politics, they did point out that the Colorado River Compact, which dates back to 1922, separates water allocation by basin rather than by state, further complicating political debates over water availability.

Laws prohibiting the significant removal of groundwater for non-emergency, commercial, and out-of-state usage have been developed by the state of Minnesota as well as by specific localities like Dakota County.

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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