August 12 2011

Expanding California’s State Water Project to the Nation: Avoiding Water Shortages Nationwide

Sidewalks exploding, train tracks buckling, foundations cracking – Is it the End? No, just a really bad drought in Texas.

Drought: Standard for North America

In Texas, we’ve been recording weather since 1895. If you’re looking at that history, you only have the Dust Bowl of the 30s, the decade-long dry spell of the 40s-50s, and the drought of the late 80s to compare. The worst drought of those was mid-century, and we have not topped that, yet. Though many expect we will.

But look farther back, and we find hot, dry conditions may not be so unusual – not only in Texas, but throughout North America. In the late 16th century, a series of droughts extended from Mexico to British Columbia and coast to coast, with 3 to 6-year periods of extreme heat. Over the last 10,000 years, North America has seen repeated periods of widespread and lengthy droughts.

Exploiting Flooding: Canada to the Gulf of Mexico

Whatever structural damage high temperatures cause, it does not compare with the devastation of water shortage. We can design for heat, but we can’t live without water. Crops, cattle, power plants and factories, not to mention lakeside picnics; our economic and social systems are at risk.

Add to systemic climactic inhospitality the unyielding influx of population throughout Texas, and clearly we are building to a water supply disaster of diluvian proportions.

The irony is that while springs are going dry in Texas, rivers and lakes from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico are bursting their banks with record floods. Can’t we marry these catastrophes and produce something better?

Expanding California’s State Water Project to the Nation

The longest oil pipeline in the world is 2,500 miles. It’s only 1,050 miles from Chicago to San Antonio – less than the length of the second longest pipeline. If we can transport oil across continents, why not water?

The world’s largest water delivery system is California’s State Water Project, with 700 miles of canals and pipelines. Perhaps it is time to begin planning for a national water system. Rather than patching up levies to keep the Mississippi & Missouri Rivers from flooding – rather than watching cows keel over and crops wither – why not build the infrastructure to bring the excess water to the parched places?

Planning Where There Are Resources

Of course, such an idea leads to many questions. Why aren’t we doing this already? But also, should we be planting crops and houses in areas so systemically hostile to our needs? And how far can we transport a resource upon which we rely so completely, before security risks – from natural disasters or sabotage – outweigh the advantages availability?

This entry was posted on Friday, August 12th, 2011 at 8:02 am and is filed under Engineering, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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