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Mississippi River to Colorado River Solar Powered Pipeline

Vast New Water Supply for the West
(+1, -1)
  [vote for,

Imagine a Five foot diameter, half burried pipeline covered with photovoltaic cells on the upper half. This One thousand mile long pipeline could move water from the Eastern USA (Great Lakes, Ohio River, Missouri River, and Mississippi River) to the Colorado River via the Mississippi River. One benefit would be flood control for the Eastern USA river basins.

Because of the tremendous force and pressure required to move the water up the Rocky Mts., reserviours would have to be built at assending levels.

Engineers will have to decide what is most efficient in terms of extending the pipeline towards sea level past the continental divide. An extra thousand miles would get you to Death Valley..almost a net free ride once headloss (friction) is factored.

The vast total surface area of solar cells on the exposed part of the pipeline, will generate electicity dedicated to pumping stations to move the water uphill. The potential energy will be stored as water in the great dams on the Colorado River. In effect, the photovoltaic system will have a battery, as stored dam water.

This will create hundreds of thousands of new acres to irrigate in the Southwest (Mexico and USA), and rehabilitate the wrecked habitat of the Colorado River Delta. It will create millions of new jobs, communities, and food for millions and millions of people. Global warming and rising sea levels will be abated as fresh water that would be going to the St. Lawrence Seaway, and the Gulf of Mexico would be going on land, to CO2 absorbing crops, trees, parks, lawns..a net positive effect.

The cost would be tens of billions of dollars...maybe one third the cost of the present Iraqi war buildup.

Dean Bowlus

songpro, Jan 22 2003

Some random photovoltaic dealer http://www.ips-solar.com/pv/bipv.htm
20 - 30 W-hr/sqft [mgangemi, Oct 21 2004]

Aqualibrium http://www.halfbake...om/idea/Aqualibrium
No solar cells. [phoenix, Oct 21 2004]

Description of NAWAPA and other proposals. http://www.canspiracy.8m.com/article5.htm
Despite the name of the site, Canspiracy, the information on this page is accurate. In Canada, water was such an issue in NAFTA that a key campaign promise of the Prime Minister was to reject the whole deal if water were included. Promises, promises. [rowlycat, Oct 21 2004]

Or try this one http://www.sd83.bc....6/vanj-reasons.html
Gives pro-con considerations for NAWAPA. [rowlycat, Oct 21 2004]


       Whenever someone suggests an expensive/insane engineering project to provide more water to grow rice in Arizona, someone else has to say that a better (and the only long-term) solution would be to let the price of existing water supplies float. I may as well take a turn: Wouldn't it be a lot wiser and more practical to pension off/retrain/screw desert farmers and try to persuade industry to turn down the old CO2 a bit with taxes/environmental regulations/carbon-trading schemes?   

       Here are some practical problems to go with egnor's (which are plenty fatal on their own): Cost and availability of 1000 mile x 10+' strip of land for an exposed pileline. Need to bury occasionally. Need to cross or otherwise bypass for new construction/roads/etc. Amount of energy harvested by such a pipeline divided by the amount needed to pump water a thousand miles over things like mountains.   

       On the other hand, insane mega-projects are cool. Welcome to the site and all that, songpro.
Monkfish, Jan 22 2003

       Might help with Mississippi flooding damage as well.
RayfordSteele, Jan 22 2003

       I don't think Phoenix and LA need to be encouraged to use more water...
hippo, Jan 23 2003

       The cornucopia of food coming from California is a result of the most elaborate water transportaion system on earth. What I suggest is to expand this, rehabilitate the wrecked Colorado River delta, provide hundreds of thousands of new farm acres in the Southwest. Worlds population will be 10 billion people in about 20 years. YES, THE WEST DOES NEED TO BE ENCOURAGED TO USE MORE WATER!
songpro, Jan 23 2003

       Hey, it would create a hell of a lot of jobs, which we can surely use right about now.
notme, Jan 23 2003

       Well, so would digging a really big hole and then filling it in again, and it would make better economic (and ecological) sense. If food and arable land ever become so scarce that it's worthwhile, more water can and will be made available to plough into deserts; but even then diverting the Mississippi via a cross-continent culvert probably won't be the favoured scheme. (And aren't there better ways to repair the wrecked Colorado delta than by wrecking other deltas in the same way?)
Monkfish, Jan 23 2003

       Oh, oh, I see a problem. <pluterday jumps up with her hand waving> The pipeline diameter has to be really huge to carry this much water, but nevertheless, the upper surface area is really very small (for solar collection purposes), so there would never be enough energy to pump the water up mountains. How about just tunneling straight thru on a zero incline, and eliminate most of the head problems?
pluterday, Jan 23 2003

       There would be quite a bit of surface area for solar cells on the pipeline, a 5' diameter pipe will have about 7 Ft2 for evey foot of length (semicircular arc). x 5280 ft/mile x 1000 miles. Correct me if I am wrong..about 35 Million square feet of possible solar cell surface area. It would be the Largest solar energy project ever contructed. Also remember energy can be recovered if the pipeline is extended downward past the continental divide, either through kinetic energy, or as stored potential energy in the Colorado river dams.   

       I just like the concept of using solar power to move water through a pipeline UPHILL, and use dams as energy storage devices. This concept could be applied anywhere in the world, not just for badly needed water in the western USA.   

       This is technically very do-able, much more in the realm of possibility than tunneling through 1000miles of rock. Regards, Dean
songpro, Jan 23 2003

       In regards to destroying the Mississippi Delta to restore the Colorado River Delta, a valid point is made... We would have to see what extra (surplus)could be sent west. I am sure since the Mississippi River is the main waterway to the Sea for half of the US, there is much extra that can be used.   

       The Great lakes, Ohio River, and Missouri River are all now tied,... or can be relatively easily tied into the Mississippi River, for flood control as an added benfit.
songpro, Jan 23 2003

       //a 10' diameter pipe will have about 14 Ft2 for evey foot of length (semicircular arc)//   

       From the point of view of your incoming energy, a pipe 10 feet in diameter is only 10 feet across. Also, the added arc length is not perpendicular to the incident radiation, which appreciably decreases efficiency.
lurch, Jan 23 2003

       Power generated in 100' of pipe: 25 W-hr/sqft x 10' x 100' = 25,000 W-hr = 90 MJ   

       Volume of water in this tube: 31,415 ft3 Mass of this water: 980 tons Energy required to lift this water 1': 85 MJ   

       I've completely ignored concepts like friction, pump efficiency, dynamic head etc., and please someone check my math, but it looks like as long as you run over 100' horizontally for every foot you move the water up, it looks technically viable. croissant.
mgangemi, Jan 23 2003

       Yes, the solar-powered pumpline part is actually a pretty good idea. For exposed pipelines that don't cross any mountains or anything, stretches of cells adjacent to the pumps would do. Even in this scheme, the energy available is enough to pump a lot of water over a low mountain pass -- there are just lots of other reasons it's not a sound idea.
Monkfish, Jan 23 2003

       Your solar cell calculations seem much too optimistic. If you arranged the cells so that all were horizontal, or preferrably tracking somehow, then you might get the wattage. Better to use a solar collector than expensive and relatively inefficient photovoltaics.   

       You don't want to tie the Great Lakes to the Mississippi. That would be a bad thing. Biological pollution and all sorts of weird ecological implications; I lived on the dividing line that separated the water emptying into the Lakes from the water going down to the gulf by way of the Ohio and Mississippi, and they pick up different types of sediment along the way, that the receiving ends of both are 'used to.'
RayfordSteele, Jan 23 2003

       In regards to co-mingling water from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi, I think that is a valid point... I don't know the flow rate from the Great Lakes to the St Lawrence Seaway, but a portion of this is fresh water that could be used to irrigate desert, and not raise sea levels. IT IS A FRESH WATER BONANZA! A properly constructed overflow weir, chlorination, and then de-chlorination sould easily solve these problems.
songpro, Jan 23 2003

       [mgangemi] //980 tons Energy required to lift this water 1'//

While I'm looking at your calculation thru a bottle of merlot (half empty), it looks to me like you have the water flowing at about 100' per HOUR, which is right slow. At that rate, you'd get enough out of the end of the pipe to make coffee for a large city, but not enough to water the lawns.

And you’d have to stop even that trickle at night, and during inclement weather.

[reensure] //then the pipe could function as a siphon//
A siphon is limited to less than 30' of head.
pluterday, Jan 23 2003

       100' an hour?   

       I don't think the constant energy being applied (daytime) to already moving full pipe of water is going to go that slow.   

       There would be a check system to prevent backflow. Even if the water were at a complete stop, thermal expansion when the sun hits the pipe will get it moving the right direction.   

       Why not consider ways to make it more efficient and more of a power generator? Additional hundreds of miles on the downslopes past the continental divide, additional solar collectors/converters on the downsides, where there are about 300 plus days a year of sunshine.   

       I think at the end of the day (literally) there will be a of a lot of Mega-watts produced, and hundreds of millions of gallons of water moved.
songpro, Jan 23 2003

       //5/8 baked idea//

That may not be the correct terminology. But, what you really want to look for is an at least conceptually possible idea that provides a ludicrous image. (I base that on 2 weeks at the bakery and 5/8ths bottle of merlot, currently.)
pluterday, Jan 23 2003

       The movement of the water through the pipe lessens the force needed to lift it. This was nor factored in. This fact changes everything.   

       There would be check valves to prevent backflow. Assending reseviours to maintain hydrolic pressure.
songpro, Jan 24 2003

       I lived on the dividing line that separated the water emptying into the Lakes from the water going down to the gulf by way of the Ohio and Mississippi, and they pick up different types of sediment along the way, that the receiving ends of both are 'used to.' RayfordSteele,   


       RE: I think these problems can be overcome with a sufficiently large overflow weir box, I envision it as having a floating pontoon on the outside perimeter, as a primary filter, and air blowback on the secondary screens on the serrated overflow part. This will keep the fish and debris out, as well as the sediments. Dean
songpro, Jan 24 2003

       [songpro] Don't let anyone worry you about momentum, as there isn't any to speak of. At your rate of flow (100ft/hr), it would take about six years for water to get from the Mississippi to a coffee cup in Las Vegas. (And that's with the sun shining 24 hrs a day.)

Boondoggle Consultants suggest the following, which would have the same total flow for a fraction of the cost. Use a 12” pipe, giving a 10,000 ft/hr flow rate (still slow enough not to create much in the way of friction losses). Every few miles (more frequently in mountainous areas) use a water tower to provide pressure – and to maintain it overnight. (A small solar farm surrounds each tower.) Time to Las Vegas is cut to less than one month!
pluterday, Jan 24 2003

       [songpro] Don't let anyone worry you about momentum, as there isn't any to speak of. At your rate of flow (100ft/hr), it would take about six years for water to get from the Mississippi to a coffee cup in Las Vegas. (And that's with the sun shining 24 hrs a day.)   

       re: I don't think the100'/Hr assumtion is correct. I was using 10' Diameter, for a starting point in discussion, maybe 5' is more realistic for an initial cross country project. I would like to see some input from some solar people as to how much energy we could expect out of 74 million square feet of surface area. Or half of that for a 5' pipe. The fact is, once the water is moving, there will be a constant positive force applied to ALREADY moving water, to the GPM limits of the pumps available. I think 100' an hour is a red herring Maybe 5' or 6 ' diameter is more manageble to engineer, still provide a lot of water, still be the largest solar project ever built. Continue the solar covering on the downside towards sea level, and produce a lot of power along with the water transfer. Clean Power.   

       I like the idea of water towers, as you will note, from my initial writing I suggested reserviours at assending levels...
songpro, Jan 24 2003

       I'm a bit of a solar person. It would be easier to simply fit a flat surface on the top of the pipe than worry about cells in arcs.   

       When cells aren't nearly normal to the sun, not only do you get the foreshortening effect of the geometry working against you, but also an increased amount of reflection, which even further limits your cells.   

       This project would have the cell manufacturers working for nearly an eternity, BTW.   

       I can't imagine that siphoning would work over that distance. Too much head loss.   

       Reensure's steam tube idea is interesting.
RayfordSteele, Jan 24 2003

       The reason i suggested a large diameter pipe was the head loss. There won't be nearly as much friction in a larger diameter pipe. I did not mention "siphoning" ONCE here in all my annotations. But the fact remains, you will regain a significant percentage of your energy investment when the water comes downhill.   

       Lets agree on this then... If a solar powered pipeline started from Lake Superior, 550 feet above sea level, and ended in Death Valley, with 70 million square feet of solar cells covering the thing, you would still say it would be inefficient.
songpro, Jan 24 2003

       I love the idea of regenerating the energy while coming down the mountain. If you tied the electricity into the power grid, you wouldn't have to worry about the thing stopping every night. If you generate energy on the way down the mountain, it should equal the energy used to pump it up the mountain, minus the inefficiency of the system (which I'm aware would be large). The extra should easily be made up by the huge length of solar pannels.
mgangemi, Jan 27 2003

       How much energy would it take to load the water into tankers and sail it through the Panama canal to California?
kropotkin, Jan 27 2003

       Puzzled that no one's mentioned NAWAPA. There are serious schemes to do this sort of thing, NAWAPA being the most likely to be realized. And not as farfetched as one might imagine. Check the link.   

       Given the massive power consumption of the Feather River Project, I'm gagging on the "solar powered" part.   

       I highly recommend Mark Reisner's excellent book CADILLAC DESERT, an excellent history of western US irrigation that manages to transcend its subject and offer an indispensable take on American history in general (plus, you get to learn why L.A. is the world's largest city). A good read, and should be fascinating to anyone with any interest in the subject.
rowlycat, Jan 27 2003

       I wouldn't say it would be inefficient, just impractical. It's the solar-powered part that kills it. But heck, Rome wasn't built in a day, and people probably said the same about the Alaskan pipeline.
RayfordSteele, Jan 27 2003

       Reensure Wrote, A lot more than today's residents are willing to spend. I sort of spun through similar fixes involving tanker-trailers or tanker-railcars.   

       Reply. I agree with you, but it is sad. Consider the 200 or 300 billion we are spending on war preparations (whether deservedly or not) you could build five or ten of these things if they were 5' in diameter. The solar cells, even with today's technology will probably last 50 years, producing clean power every day, and moving water.   

       It is also ironic that there would be a howl from "environmentalists" about taking a rational portion of fresh water from the Mississippi, the Great Lakes, Or Columbia river and put it on land rather than to the sea.   

       Meanwhile China is burning 1.2 Billion tons of coal every year. The future is not looking good folks, unless we can get a lot more water onto desert.
songpro, Jan 28 2003

       // tunneling straight thru on a zero incline //   

       Isn't there some way of getting a free "boost" from Coriolis effects, if you bore the tunnel in the right way ?
8th of 7, Jan 28 2003

mgangemi, Jan 30 2003


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