Looking Long-Term On Water Issues

Commentary

Consider this scenario: It is the mid-21st century. All continental U.S. cities, towns and hamlets are now connected to one another by a continent-wide system of water pipelines.

Water is clean, abundant and available to all at a reasonable cost. In regions where flooding may occur, the water is directed to huge underground cisterns, to groundwater reservoirs or to a channel or canal system that can safely return water to the oceans.

In all major agricultural areas all sources of water — whether surface or sub-surface — are filled to highest usage capacities. In the arid southwestern deserts, all subsurface aquifers are constantly maintained at required levels, as are all streams, lakes and rivers necessary for agricultural and recreational purposes. In the deserts, oases have been created and in marshlands water is always available for wildlife.

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Consider this scenario: It is the mid-21st century. All continental U.S. cities, towns and hamlets are now connected to one another by a continent-wide system of water pipelines.

Water is clean, abundant and available to all at a reasonable cost. In regions where flooding may occur, the water is directed to huge underground cisterns, to groundwater reservoirs or to a channel or canal system that can safely return water to the oceans.

In all major agricultural areas all sources of water — whether surface or sub-surface — are filled to highest usage capacities. In the arid southwestern deserts, all subsurface aquifers are constantly maintained at required levels, as are all streams, lakes and rivers necessary for agricultural and recreational purposes. In the deserts, oases have been created and in marshlands water is always available for wildlife.

In addition, the legal framework to support this system has been established by the federal government … Established usage rules have now been legally tailored to accommodate local, state and regional requirements.

Desalination plants located along the Atlantic, Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico coastlines provide the system's water. The water is then pumped via pipelines to "water farms" located in strategic areas. These are large, regional pipeline computer centers that in turn service smaller facilities that are tailored to respond to the particular needs of their area, i.e., flooding conditions, drought areas, aquifer replenishment and so on.

All water farms provide backup to each other, as necessary. The pipelines themselves follow existing gas pipeline routes where practical but have also been considerably extended throughout the country. In addition, cavernous cisterns, diversion channels, storage lake systems and water treatment plants have been constructed to handle storm waters.


Had this system or something like it been started back in the mid-1950s along with our interstate road system, it would now be in place, or nearly so, and there would be no problem with the present drought in the southwestern states.

The aquifers would now be fully maintained at safe levels as a matter of practice.

There would be abundant water available to agricultural regions, and in regions subject to storms, water diversification processes would routinely reduce flood damage.

The project might even provide an incentive for gas and electric utilities to overhaul their transmissions systems and ensure that they can provide gas and electricity anywhere needed in times of heavy usage or emergency conditions.

Federal and state governments must act more quickly to solve this crisis now.

My main concern is that we may lose some or even much of our underground aquifer system. Aquifer draw-down may be accompanied by drying and mineral filling of the reservoir pores and cracks. Subsequent compaction may increase the damage to the reservoir, perhaps permanently.

I believe that it would be ironic, indeed tragic, if the largest and greatest scientific establishment the world has seen to date, of which we are a part, did not prevent the squandering and loss of our most precious natural resource, water.

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