Water is essential for our survival. About seventy-two percent of the Earth's surface is covered in water. Yet only about 3% of that total is drinking water as the rest is salt water from the oceans. Of the three percent of the water that is drinking water, much of that is inaccessible to human beings either being underground or in remote locations (like trapped in Arctic ice). Not to worry as we have trillions and trillions of gallons of available water for our use. Essentially we have an abundance of fresh drinking water yet many people on the planet live in drought areas or cannot access the water that might be available.
We do not have a water problem in America or on the planet. We have a distribution problem. We have plenty of water. How do we get that water to where people can use it the most is the critical issue. In America we hear each day about parts of the country that are experiencing either short-term or long-term drought. On the very same day we hear of other areas of the country besieged by storms with ravaging floods and damns collapsing because of too much water. How could this be? A drought or an over-abundance of water?
America is a unique country because it has several different meteorological climate zones that have completely different weather patterns. From the parched deserts of the South West to the lush green dampness of the Northeast, we have a variety of weather patterns. The hot and humid dampness of the South is in sharp contrast to the frozen ice storms of the North East. In America, water is always flowing somewhere, usually in abundance, while another area might be short on their water distribution.
For instance, when the Pacific Coast experiences an El Nino event the jet stream drops down lower for the winter months providing an excess of moisture for the season. Heavy rains in California are expected at this time. At the same time Oregon and Washington state experience a drier than normal amount of rain. When there is a La Nina event along the West Coast California is usually in a drought pattern where the Pacific Northwest experiences an abundance of rainfall. The bottom line is that water is always available somewhere and we are never all out of water at the same time.
What would happen if we had a national plan to be able to distribute water all over the nation at any one given time? The reality is that this plan has already been tried and is in place in many areas. Why not nationalize the plan?
For instance, California has several aqueducts, rivers, lakes and dams that move water hundreds of miles away to where it is needed. The twenty-five million people living in Southern California could not exist without imported water. Essentially, Southern California is a Mediterranean climate which is very close to that of a desert. Life for this many people could not exist without imported water. An aqueduct from Northern California (The California Aqueduct) takes water all the way from Shasta Lake in the north to fill the reservoirs of Los Angeles. Another aqueduct (The Los Angeles Aqueduct) moves water from the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountain ranges all the way to Los Angeles (about 450 miles). More water is brought in through the Colorado River traveling through Arizona and Nevada. Without imported water Los Angeles and Southern California could not exist.
New York City is no stranger to water imports. A city of over seven million people depends on imported water that travels long distances to quench the thirst of New Yorkers. A series of aqueducts and tunnels that begin in upstate New York carry most of the water supply of New York city to their showers and toilets. This massive system is about a hundred years old and New York could not survive without this imported water stream.
We have seen in the past the great Tennessee Valley water project that harnessed great amounts of water for central America. We have seen great and inspiring dams like the Hoover Dam built to supply cities like Las Vegas with all the needed water and electricity it could use.
Moving water to other areas is not a new idea. It is already being done on a smaller scale throughout the country. The problem we experience right now is that we see the country as regions (like states, counties etc.) and not as a whole entity. We must begin to envision the entire country and its water needs and not just a small region.
Here is the reality. Some areas need more water to fulfill a growing population, increased farming and grazing of cattle. Other areas are burdened by too much water they wish they could get rid of. Why not marry these two ideas together? How often do we hear stories of overfilled dams bursting in the Midwest because of too much water? The mighty Mississippi River has connections to thirty-one different states before finally draining into the ocean and every spring it overflows its banks in each of those thirty-one states destroying towns, flooding homes and costing lives. Wouldn't it be amazing if we could transport some of that abundance of water to other areas before the spring thaw so that areas that needed water could have it and areas with too much water could avoid their annual disasters?
The ironic part is that we have so many national systems that connect all of us, why not a national water delivery system as well? Over a century and a half ago we created a national railway system across the country. Many did not believe this was possible. This transportation network help people to migrate from East to West in record numbers. Tunnels were dug, bridges were built and miles of track laid down. Today that national railways system still exists. It is called Amtrak and serves not just public rail but freight and cargo trains as well.
We also created a national communication system that first began with the telegraph, then the telephone and now the internet. That national system is now moving from the internet and phone service of 3G to faster networks of 4G and 5G. We are even more connected through our national communication system.
We started with the Pony Express and a nationalized mail service delivering mail to the most remote of outposts. That system has grown and grown so that every household in America is now connected and able to receive mail service. Who ever imagined that would be accomplished?
What once began as dirt wagon trails turned into paved roads then into freeways and highways. We currently have an expansive interstate highway system that traverses throughout the entire country carrying mail, truckloads of cargo and eager-eyed vacationers. Who thought this was possible during the horse and buggy days?
A nationalized water system is very achievable and would be the next great American achievement. Unfortunately, short-sighted government officials wish to spend billions of dollars trying to send an astronaut back to the moon. That is so 1960's. Been there and done that! Nothing new to accomplish there except to make sure that we put the first woman on the moon. Billionaire egomaniacs wish to spend their fortunes in rocket ship companies or making sure that there are enough internet satellites in orbit so that nomads in the Sahara desert are able to order products on Amazon. We just do not have our priorities in order and spend our money on foolish endeavors. Wouldn't it be great if we could rally around a national water distribution system that benefits all of us?
The technology already exists for such a project. We have seen how vast amounts of water are moved in New York and California. Giant drilling machines currently being used to dig tunnels for subways could be used to create underground transportation corridors. We could pump large amounts of water underground using these hole-diggers without having to upset the surface environment. Rivers of water could be flowing across the country and underground without anyone knowing of it. Very little evaporation would occur if the water moved underground. Solar panels and wind farms could be used to power the pumping stations required. Fields of batteries would be utilized to store power during the day and use it at night when the winds died down and the sun was absent. All of these technologies currently exist.
Existing rivers and lakes could be used to eliminate much of the digging. For instance, Hurricane Harvey in 2017 dumped 51 inches of rain (27 trillion gallons) over Texas in a matter of days. Sixty-one lives were lost and tens of billions of dollars in damage created. What might it be like if we could anticipate a storm of this magnitude and several days before started to drain some of the lakes, rivers and low lying areas of Texas and then pump that water underground all the way to Lake Mead and Lake Powell where the people in the West could drastically use it. It would be a win/win. The people of Texas would have their flooding problems mitigated and the people in the West would have an abundance of water. The Lake Mead/Lake Powell project serves six states that all need more water (California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and new Mexico.)
We could gradually pump water away from flood prone areas and begin to fill up large aquifers that have been over pumped for decades. For instance, the Ogallala Aquifer which encompasses eight states across the Great Plains has been over-pumped for a long time. What if we took some of this Mississippi River flood water or a Southern hurricane deluge and transported vast amounts of water to these aquifers to let them recharge again. California's Central Valley is another area that could use to be recharged as the valley floor has sunken several feet from over-pumping of ground water. We could even use the Great Salt Lake of Utah as a storage basin for water. Even though it is salty in nature, when needed we could utilize solar powered desalination plants to extract the needed fresh water.
What would it cost? This would be an enormous undertaking, not unlike trying to go back to the moon or landing on Mars. The good news is that the people and water districts that want the water would be paying for it and the people who are trying to get rid of excess water would be receiving extra revenue. You might even have a state wide bonus program like they do in Alaska with the oil pipeline. Every citizen of Alaska receives a yearly stipend from the oil pipeline's sales. Every state where water is moved away from could distribute those funds to their citizens each year.
Unlike in the past with the Los Angles Department of Water and Power buying up all of the water rights in the Owens Valley to essentially steal the water, nobody would be stealing anyone else's water. Only excess water would be transported away to other areas.
This technology would not just work in America but throughout the globe. Imagine if drought stricken areas in Africa were able to receive transported underground water that came from areas of flooding. Imagine if the monsoonal waters of India could be pumped underground and stored for the dry season.
America and the rest of the world do not have a shortage of fresh water. We have a distribution problem. When will clearer heads prevail and stop these ridiculous outer space cowboy activities and focus on real worldly issues? Plenty of water is available to all of us. Learning how to get it to new places is already being done. When will we take those lessons and nationalize our water distribution system?