Pipeline from the Mississippi River to Colorado?

Mississippi River Basin

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Hausler’s idea is to bring water from the Mississippi just below its confluence with the Ohio River across Missouri and Kansas into Colorado. The 800-mile system of pipelines, ditches and reservoirs would cost an estimated $23 billion and could provide 1 million acre-feet of water a year to Colorado. That’s just a little less than the total amount used by cities and more than enough to meet the projected municipal gap for the next 50 years.

He’s presented the idea to the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, state officials (including former Gov. Bill Ritter) and anyone else who will listen. And there’s the problem. They just listen. And maybe snicker a little. “The project is pretty dead right now,” said Hausler, a Gunnison rancher and mining engineer, in a telephone interview Monday. “I’ve gotten tired of beating my head against the wall. I think it’s silly and short-sighted, certainly parochial. Nobody in this state is really looking forward.” Hausler said the cost of construction and operation of a Mississippi River pipeline would be in line with the cost per acre-foot of proposed projects from the Colorado River…

The Mississippi River passes more than 240 million acre-feet annually at the proposed point of diversion, 30 miles south of Cairo, Ill. During the current flooding, more than 4 million acre-feet per day are flowing at that spot…

Hausler insisted the Mississippi River pipeline is a true regional solution that would not dry up any farmland or put any further stress on the Colorado River. “We need to ignore the arbitrary state lines drawn on a map in 1860s Washington and come up with a regional solution to water needs that will benefit the entire West including several Plains states,” Hausler said.

More pipeline from the Mississippi River coverage here.

41 thoughts on “Pipeline from the Mississippi River to Colorado?

  1. The proposal makes very good sense, considering the drought situation in the southwest at present. We as America, could certainly benefit from such a project. It could satisfy the needs of millions of Americans during years where flooding is more likely and drought grips the farming communities. It would create jobs and stability in many areas. Seems like a workable idea for many, rather than concentrating tax dollars on a bullet train that only provides the convenience of speed, but no solutions for sustainability.

    1. Camman,

      Thanks for commenting. Ms. Mulroy’s plan has significant water quality concerns. I believe it will be hard or impossible for her to get the major Front Range west slope diverters to send their water down to the Lower Colorado River in exchange for water from east of the Colorado-Kansas border.

      Maybe we’ll see a reverse-Flaming Gorge pipeline?

      John Orr

      1. The water comes from mississippi where sea level is only 500 feet. The Glen canyon is 24oo feet. Do the math, would have to Pump all the water . Could be a disaster and flow back to mississippi

      2. The need for both water in the west and electric power storage from wind and solar sources precedent the unique opportunity in moving millions of foot acres of Mississippi water at 30’ elevation at Morganza Spillway to McClure Reservoir at 7000’ elevation. The 1000 mile pipeline thru LA, TX and NM’s sparsely populated terrain would capture peak wind and solar electric power generation enabling continuous service from these intermittent sources while simultaneously positioning trillions of gallons of potable water that will meet the needs for generational growth and prosperity in NM, AR, and Southern CA!

      3. Dave,
        Thanks for commenting. I love the ambition but we can’t build our way out of water scarcity. The West needs to rip out their bluegrass. Ironically, mitigating the climate crisis has been modeled to show the effects of different emission scenarios on supply: https://coyotegulch.blog/2021/09/23/study-dry-future-likely-unavoidable-for-southwest-but-reducing-greenhouse-gases-can-still-help-noaa/

        The costs of moving water are huge. I do like the solar and wind renewable power to move the water. It may be too unaffordable for large segments of the population.

        The final hurdle is the controlling agency. What would you suggest? A compact amongst the affected states?

        John Orr
        http://coyotegulch.blog/

    2. I have to say the dam and pipeline meant to siphon the excess Mississippi River water across the Rockies to the Colorado river flowing to Arizona, Neveda Utah, and California has precedence, and been in the works to be done “someday” the past 50 years.

      1. Jeff,
        Sort of link oil shale being the “Next Big Thing” for over 100 years. If only moving water wasn’t so expensive.

        Via Epic Maps with USGS data.

        Thanks for commenting.

        John Orr

  2. I live in Las Vegas nv I moved from alton illinois which gets flooded yearly why cant hauslers idea be taken seriously to prevent flooding and service other short watered states west of the Mississippi. Roni P Mclemore

    1. Cost, water rights, rights of way, and too many states and entities for governance. What would the water cost? Agriculture can’t pay much for water and they are the biggest users. Drying up Ag is much more economical for cities.

      1. I agree. The legacy from colonial thieves is apparent in shareholders of the Salt River Project and other flood irrigation districts in Arizona, they pay pennies to flood their almonds and cows in the middle of the Sonoran. Growing ammonds and stuff in circles is not right when there is no water and no real competitive advantage once you account for the fact that it takes 2000 gallons of water to make a pound of ammonds we ship to china. give me a break. we send them our alfafa too just stop it.

      2. The right to divert is a private property right administered by the states. It would take legislation to tell farmers what they can do with their property right and I don’t see the political will to tackle any environmental question.

        Thanks for commenting.

        John Orr

    2. Another similar idea is build a water pipeline from Davenport IA…the Mississippi River…to Rock Springs WY…the Green River, which is a major tributary to the Colorado River. Take water from where there is too much of it and pipe it to the Colorado River where 40 million rely on it…in addition to the agricultural areas in the Southwest that serves the entire country.

      1. Mark,
        I haven’t heard about that idea before.There’s a major utility corridor through there to the Green River and Green River, Wyoming. That might help with permitting. There would be major transit loss in the Green River, Lake Powell, the Colorado River, and Lake Mead.

        John Orr
        http://coyotegulch.blog/

  3. I believe there’s an even bigger idea that can solve the challenges, pay for itself over time and create sustainable jobs for millions. Imagine an inland water way that goes from the mouth of the Gulf in Louisiana West to the Colorado river. Sure there will be some disrupt with some private homes being challenged. But we can work around almost all of that by using a creative water path. But you make this water way 50 feet deep and 300 feet wide and you’ll have boating and recreation, you’ll have real estate development, both commercial and residential. John Lennon taught us to imagine. So imagine …

    1. We all know the single biggest user of water in the entire southwest is California agriculture, so this is where more water..from a NEW source..is needed. The solution is a solar powered desalination plant build inland, because the area needed is too much for placing it on beachfront property. Instead build it near the Golden Acorn Casino in Live Oak Springs, CA. Electricity to pump the seawater uphill to this location is a small price to pay. The desalinated water going to the farms in the Imperial Valley and the brine returned to the ocean both flow downhill by gravity. An additional pipe of seawater water is added to the brine just before release to the ocean, which greatly reduces the level of salinity of the brine water. This desalinated water largely..if not entirely.. replaces the huge amount of water the Imperial Valley has always taken from the Colorado River, which leaves that water in Lake Mead and the Colorado River for the benefit of the other southwestern states…who should therefore proportionately share in the cost of building this solar powered desalination plant. The cost to operate this desalination plant will be low because the sun does not send a power bill to our planet

  4. This should be the Big Green Deal that the Democrats want so bad.Yes l would love to be the man ,that makes this Happen.Common sense They need water out ,we need water in.

    1. this should be the big digging project the trumpies want so bad. i can’t imagine any project before the advent of right of way and environmental reviews ever passing muster for this author.

    2. Getting water to the Southwest with the existential threat posed by the drought should not be characterized as a Democratic or Republican issue. Right now the issue is finding the leader who will push for finding…then enacting the solution to get water from where there is an abundant supply to where it is needed. Realistic solutions include undersea pipelines that carry water from rivers that pour into the ocean in central California and get it to Los Angeles and/or San Diego. (Yes.. this is realistic..as there are undersea pipelines that transport oil). And there are solar powered desalination plants that can be built as covered in other posts on this site. These solutions immediately and directly benefit S. California, but the result is S, California needing less water from the Colorado River which leaves that amount of water to be used by the other southwestern states. I also believe we are sick to death tired of hearing the nay sayers tell us nothing will work..nothing can be done. The nay sayers will have us wait and do nothing until Lake Mead’s water level drops to dead pool. And one final solution has to do with reservoir and lake water evaporation control. The amount of water in Lake Powell and Lake Mead lost by evaporation alone is staggeringly unbelievably incredibly huge. Look it up for yourself. Then wait for the next nay sayer tell us trying to do something about this will, of course, not work.

      1. Mark, thanks for commenting. I like the idea of freshwater pump-backs from the coast but the legal entanglements would be tough to overcome. Technical feasibility also does not overcome costs. Who will pay for your plans? I remember rumors about Las Vegas being willing to pay for desalination in S. California so that the water would be left in Lake Mead for Las Vegas. Alas, conserved water goes to the next entity in priority under water law. Ag is still the biggest user of water in the Basin. I’m all for creative solutions but I have the question, “How will you allocate water in times of scarcity?”

        John Orr
        http://coyotegulch.blog/

  5. We built the Hoover Dam, we built an amazing interstate highway system, we landed on the moon. The logistics for each of these endeavors were equally complex and the costs were high. $23 Billion dollars is equal to $70 for each person in this country. If it takes 5 years to complete that would be a cost of $14 per year per person. That is about 5 cents per day per person. Is bringing much needed water to the desert southwest really worth 5 cents per day? I can’t imagine anyone saying no to that question. We need a mechanism to take this to the people instead of the politicians. I know there is a way. Let me know how I can help.

    1. Earl,
      First, make sure that you throw out all the business as usual politicians that you can, from local government on up. Organize and support those that want the U.S. to get serious about the climate crisis. Call out leaders in business and government when they are lying or mistaken about climate change. We are rapidly losing a stable climate because we are messing with the water cycle. Only governments around the world can solve the climate puzzle. We have the pieces needed but someone has to put them in place.

      Thanks for commenting.

      John Orr
      http://coyotegulch.blog/

  6. Coyote..getting more water in Lake Mead benefits the entire Southwest…not just Las Vegas. Las Vegas does an incredible fantastic job conserving and recycling water. But it is not enough. Additional measures are needed. By the way..at some future point the non stop drop in Lake Meads water level will affect the value of homes n Las Vegas. The big increase in home prices in LV will come to a shocking end.

  7. Worked in the pipeline industry for 35 years. Tried to get the CPUC in 2000 intersted in utilizing a oil pipeline for other purposes that ran from North LA to south LA All we got was a conversation about the football game. Now there are even more lines available to move water from SF to LA., but no leadership.

    You should not expend billions in capital cost to build pipelines from Mississipi to Cororado river, with high annual op costs, when you can take Pacific ocean water thru desalinzation facility and only pump minimal miles. If expending capital , expend it to where there is an unlimited source, i.e the Pacific.. Middle East has already done this so just copy there plans and learn from their mistakes.

    1. Carl,
      Thanks for commenting.

      I agree with you in some ways but how will we handle the brine. I wonder what is happening in the Middle East with brine. I would suspect that environmentally sound disposal gets the short shrift there. I vacationed one Christmas in Aruba and they also desalinate water for their supply.

      Desalination plant in Aruba

      John Orr
      http://coyotegulch.blog/

    2. Aruba does not have a Mississippi River source to draw from and the costs of desalination are far greater than pumping fresh water from the Mississippi. The distribution system from the Colorado river already exists. Billions of acre feet of fresh water is dumped into the Gulf of Mexico and that is so wasteful when the fresh water is much needed in the Desert Southwest.

      1. Thanks for commenting. You’re right on many levels. Who would be the governing entity for the proposed pipeline? Would it require a compact amongst the affected states? I’m not sure that there would be a water rights issue and I doubt it.

        John Orr
        http://coyotegulch.blog/

      2. Not sure i understand your point, Aruba is in the carribean, while California already has built a desalinization, so they know how to operate efficiently. My last comment is ok if you divert water from Mississipi- whose owns the water once it reaches Colorado-which state has priority. Then if there is a drought in the midwest, does the pipeline go dry and once again all western states are back to square one. With my suggestion, you source the water from the Pacific, which will never go dry.

  8. Solar technology has become very inexpensive. Less than 20 cents per Watt. Earl Schmidt and I agree. Pump water during the day to elevation. Then create hydroelectric in the evening. Louisiana to California and all the states in between. Massive Grasslands added to suck up CO2. Warm weather winter ag for Arizona, California and Mexico.

  9. The Andes are one of the greatest raintraps in the world. Imagine massive solar in Chile and Peru pumping water from the Amazon which has three and a half times the flow of the Mississippi. They could have massive dams for hydroelectric and recreation west of the mountains. We could create massive grasslands to reverse CO2 increases. The payments to pay for this with come from electrical users and water users. Pretty much like the US government Treasury let the money to the various agencies to create the Hoover dam

  10. I really like the recreation and creation of grassland ideas, but anyone who has had serious communication with landowners will know that they won’t sell their property at anything resembling a reasonable price. Not for something they don’t feel is their problem. They may be willing to allow a pipeline across their land ($$$) but selling their families heritage so people can water ski, fish and build vacation homes is unlikely at best. Even if you could get the various government agencies on board, the hurdles would still be enormous; and $23 billion would only be a drop in the bucket of what would be the true cost.

  11. The idea of a building and implementing a canal system to fed excess Mississippi River water to the Colorado River Basin is daunting but like anything else it is not impossible to build it.

    A canal system would be simpler to build and maintain with impoundments to hold water and implementing the use of water pumping windmills to move it up hill from each storage basin with the primary catchment basin or basins used for the collection of river sediment and then used for soil enrichment on local farmland.

    Pumping water up hill has been done for many years in the creation of hydropower generated electricity using basic mathematics, time proven hydraulic principals for the movement of fluids and centrifugal pumps.

    Water pumping windmills with a 12 inch diameter drop pipe, large diameter wind sails and assembled with the long stroke could be used effectively to pump water from storage basins to the next storage basin using 12 inch High Density Poly Ethylene (HDPE) pipe at very low pressure. In times of no wind conditions(becalmed) a rocking horse pump jack powered by an electric motor could be used to pump water to the next basin or a second transfer pump station.

    Certainteed Yellomine pipe could be used to pump water from one basin to another over a vertical elevation distance to quickly take advantage of higher elevations where possible and quickly fill storage basins and continue to allow water pumping windmills to move water through a 12 inch pipeline.

    Using 40 feet for the example the amount of water a 40 foot pipe joint will store is 235 gallons per 40 foot pipe joint and 31,000+- gallons per mile (5280 feet).

    An acre foot of water is equal to 43,560 gallons and is equal to 185 forty foot 12 inch pipe joints+-.

    Using a windmill pump jack to push water through a 12 inch pipeline can be done in low wind conditions rather than a centrifugal pump making it even simpler to do.

    Using a pump jack pushing 100 gallons per minute 24 hours a day for 365 days will move 88,125,600 gallons of water equal to 270.45 acre feet. Its not a lot in the scheme of things but it is a start I guess.

    If a horizontal directional drilling method was used to install the smaller HDPE pipeline it would be less disruptive as very long lengths of HDPE pipe could be installed at shallow depths with steel casings installed under railroad beds and roads to protect the 12 inch diameter HDPE pipeline as it is installed.

    One of the many major issues would be the high probability of low winter water levels in the lower Mississippi Valley Basin
    due to ice build up in the upper Mississippi slowing the flow of water down river.

    It’s affect on navigation on the lower part of the Mississippi River Basin by reducing the depth of free flowing water that is deep enough for ocean going ships that travel up and down river as well as the barge traffic that travels in both directions.

    Added to that the potential for groundings of the ocean going vessels as well as the barges and tug boats traveling up river that would have to be recovered that could be damaged from groundings in the river bed if the 13 foot depth of water is not maintained for safe navigation.

    A major advantage to doing this would be to slow down the amount of silt that would be pushed into the gulf and as a result the amount of land being washed away would be significantly reduced allowing the bottom land to increase in volume but in order to do this tens of millions of gallons of river water per minute would have to be removed up river.

    The water screw would of course be perfect for this and be able to fill a canal and water screws further down the canal path would be used to overcome elevations as needed by increasing the speed of screw rotation per minute.

    A large diameter water screw or battery of water screws can be used to lift water up hill. A canal fed by water screws would be able to provide enough water to fill it continuously as long as the screw intake is submerged in water.

    If you like you can look on Wikipedia and see pictures of the Archimedes’ water screw and the design and theory behind it to do many jobs like lifting water out of polders at Kinderdijk in the Netherlands and a water sculpture using the Archimedes’ water screw.

      1. I guess the only way anything related to this is going to be worked on is if:

        1. a declared federal water emergency declaration has taken effect.

        2. the water use by almond growers could be reduced by committing
        almond growers to using the espalier orchard growing method where
        almonds and other tree crops are grown in close proximity to each
        and the tree limbs are wire tied to heavy fence wire attached to steel
        fence posts that are used to support the tree limbs.
        a. less water is needed for irrigation.
        b. less labor for pruning is needed as the tree size is controlled by the
        distance between trees in the fence line and the trees do not grow
        any taller than the fence lines and the amount of tree fruit grown is
        in a denser square area.
        c. The fruit trees are more exposed to sunlight and will create more healthy
        larger fruit as less fertilizer is needed.
        d. The square area of the orchards are smaller as the tree fence line rows are
        closer and will produce as much or more tree fruit with the same amount of
        fertilizer if it is needed but as the fruit trees are closer less fertilizer is wasted.
        3. The almond harvesting machinery would have to be modified and the parts from
        existing tree shakers modified OR self propelled grape harvesters could be
        employed with heavy brushes used on street sweepers to strip the almonds from
        the narrow rows of almond trees with the harvesters straddling the fence lines as
        is done with wine grapes.

        The opportunity to grow other tree fruits in the same manner would be worth attempting as the tree orchard is in a more controlled environment with less foliage and stronger limbs allowing more blossoms to be pollinated with les effort by the bees

        The beehive owners could reduce the chances of them being bee napped by using a modified livestock trailer as the trailer hitch would have a lock on it and the size of the livestock trailer would prevent the hives from being stolen by using machinery to lift and move the hives as the access ramp would be locked.

        The livestock trailer that was modified for bee work would or could have solar panels on it and batteries to power night vision cameras to protect the bees from being stolen as it could be set up using wired motion sensors that would be connected to cell phones or smart phones.

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