I found the report titled "Pipe Dreams," written by the Natural Resources Defense Council and published in June 2012, to be a very interesting report about present and projected water pipelines and aquaducts in the American West.
It mostly covers the issues related to the water needs of a rapidly growing region of our country, but it also touches on both the proposed Missouri River project here in Kansas and eastern Colorado and the developing Lewis and Clark project near Vermillion, South Dakota.
The Lewis and Clark project will be more than 300 miles of pipeline located in South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota. This project is actually being developed right now.
For those who thought that a pipeline starting in Leavenworth and going west for 500 miles would draw down too much water, well they need to consider the drawdown that will be occurring upstream in a few years.
Practically speaking, it really makes no difference what purpose the pipelines serve, they all depend on a limited resource to serve a growing population with greater water demands. Often overlooked in the discussion is that pipelines use an enormous amount of energy to pump water. The report points out that many of the proposed projects, and certainly most in the past, failed to take energy consumption into consideration. It was just assumed that energy supplies will be available to move the water.
These kinds of projects are projected to cost billions of dollars to construct. For example, the proposal to run a 12-foot diameter pipeline from Memphis to the Front Range in Colorado is projected to cost more than $15 billion. I guess the good news is that it will employ a lot of people and we certainly have wasted hundreds of billions or trillions of dollars on wars in the recent past, so why not spend it here on our own needs.
Assuming that some people may not want to pay higher taxes, even if it means that it may benefit Americans in the near future, then maybe the better answer is to learn to use less water and to use it more wisely. Another answer is to slowly reduce our population so that we have fewer needs. I don't think that it is rocket science to see that more people means more need for water and energy. We cannot create more water and even energy is limited, so maybe we need to consider population limits at some point; hopefully before it is a crisis.
I doubt that people will agree with population limits, so if we intend to continue to grow and to use more water and energy, then we have to accept the fact that we will have to pay more in taxes to provide the water that we demand for things like corn so that we can have more fuel for our cars or to feed more cattle, pigs, and chickens.
Page 2 of 2 - I am not categorically opposed to these massive water pipelines because they do have the promise of employing thousands of workers, but I believe that we need to stay well-informed about all of the costs and we need to ask whether these projects are really necessary and worth paying for. If we ever do get around to a discussion about this, then we also need to include the other issues like wildlife and cultural issues associated with building and maintaining pipelines.
"Pipe Dreams" is easy to find online. It is from the viewpoint of the NRDC, but you may be interested just to learn about how many projects already exist and about some of the newest proposals.
We here in Leavenworth County have few concerns about water because we have a lot of it, but multiple-billion dollar projects will probably come out of all of our pocketbooks.
Matt Nowak lives in Lansing and works as a natural resources manager.