Pipe dream or possible? Experts weigh in on idea of sending Mississippi River water to West — The Palm Springs Desert Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #LakePowell #aridification

Map of the Mississippi River Basin. Made using USGS data. By Shannon1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47308146

Click the link to read the article on the Palm Springs Desert Sun website (Janet Wilson). Here’s an excerpt:

This summer, as seven states and Mexico push to meet a Tuesday [August 16, 2022] deadline to agree on plans to shore up the Colorado River and its shriveling reservoirs, retired engineer Don Siefkes of San Leandro, California, wrote a letter to The Desert Sun with what he said was a solution to the West’s water woes: build an aqueduct from the Old River Control Structure to Lake Powell, 1,489 miles west, to refill the Colorado River system with Mississippi River water. 

“Citizens of Louisiana and Mississippi south of the Old River Control Structure don’t need all that water. All it does is cause flooding and massive tax expenditures to repair and strengthen dikes,” wrote Siefkes.”New Orleans has a problem with that much water anyway, so let’s divert 250,000 gallons/second to Lake Powell, which currently has a shortage of 5.5 trillion gallons. This would take 254 days to fill.”


Engineers said the pipeline idea is technically feasible. But water expertssaid it would likely take at least 30 years to clear legal hurdles to such a plan. And biologists and environmental attorneys said New Orleans and the Louisiana coast, along with the interior swamplands, need every drop of muddy Mississippi water. The massive river, with tributaries from Montana to Ohio, is a national artery for shipping goods out to sea. And contrary to Siefkes’ claims, experts said, the silty river flows provide sediment critical to shore up the rapidly disappearing Louisiana coast and barrier islands chewed to bits by hurricanes and sea rise. Scientists estimate a football field’s worth of Louisiana coast is lost every 60 to 90 minutes. Major projects to restore the coast and save brown pelicans and other endangered species are now underway, and Mississippi sediment delivery is at the heart of them…

Nonetheless, Siefkes’ trans-basin pipeline proposal went viral, receiving nearly half a million views. It’s one of dozens of letters the paper has received proposing or vehemently opposing schemes to fix the crashing Colorado River system, which provides water to nearly 40 million people and farms in seven western states. Fueled by Google and other search engines, more than 3.2 million people have read the letters, an unprecedented number for the regional publication’s opinion content…

The bigger obstacles are fiscal, legal, environmental and most of all, political.

“The engineering is feasible. Absolutely. You could build a pipeline from the Mississippi or Missouri Rivers. Would it be expensive? Yes. Do we have the political will? Absolutely not,” said Meena Westford, executive director of Colorado River resource policy for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. “I think that societally, we want to be more flexible. We want to have more sustainable infrastructure. So moving water that far away to supplement the Colorado River, I don’t think is viable. But it’s doable. You could do it.”

In fact, she and others noted, many such ideas have been studied since the 1940s. Most recently, in 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation produced a report laying out a potentially grim future for the Colorado River, and had experts evaluate 14 big ideas commonly touted as potential solutions. The concepts fell into a few large categories: pipe Mississippi or Missouri River water to the eastern side of the Rockies or to Lake Powell on the Arizona-Utah border, bring icebergs in bags, on container ships or via trucks to Southern California, pump water from the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest to California via a subterranean pipeline on the floor of the Pacific Ocean, or replenish the headwaters of the Green River, the main stem of the Colorado River, with water from tributaries.

Missouri River Reuse Project via The New York Times

Dry: A Weekly Western #Drought Digest — August 30, 2022 — Circle of Blue

US Drought Monitor map September 1, 2022.

Click the link to read the article on the Circle of Blue website (Delaney Nelson):

The American West is experiencing its most severe drought in 1,200 years. The consequences are far-reaching and long lasting. Forests become tinder boxes. Hydropower is weakened. Human health and wildlife are threatened.  Each week, Circle of Blue breaks down the biggest stories, the latest data, and the most promising solutions to the United States’ most urgent water crisis. Read Dry: A Weekly Western Drought Digest, your go-to news brief on the drying American West.

Top News

– As of August 23, 39 percent of the U.S. and Puerto Rico are in drought, down four  percentage points in the last month. Portions of Texas and the Southwest witnessed extraordinary downpours in recent weeks that relieved some drought stress but also caused severe flooding.

– Utah’s proposed Lake Powell pipeline struggles to make progress amid declining water levels and drought conditions.

– Data centers around the country face scrutiny for their substantial water use.

– California becomes first state to install solar panels over canals in an effort to combat drought.

The Numbers

– A single year of drought can reduce vegetation growth by more than 80 percent, researchers found. To gather their data, ecologists created artificial droughts at 100 research sites globally. While results of the study varied, some plots of land saw “catastrophic loss” in vegetation, according to Science Magazine

– As the fall migration season approaches, birds traveling along the Northern California mountains to Central America will face dried up wetlands and shallow water. Migratory birds will have to travel further to find smaller amounts of water, which will likely increase the spread of diseases among the birds, the Enterprise-Record reports. The Centers for Disease Control reported 230,900 birds are affected by the current avian flu outbreak.

– The Paluxy River in the Texas Dinosaur Valley State Park is almost completely dried up – revealing dinosaur tracks from 113 million years ago. 

Status of Reservoirs/Colorado River

– A group of seven water utilities across the Colorado River basin pledged last week to reduce their water consumption and increase water reuse and recycling programs. In a letter to the Bureau of Reclamation, officials representing utilities in Colorado, California and Nevada committed to implementing indoor and outdoor water-efficient programs, reducing the quantity of non-functional turf grass and installing drought- and climate-resilient landscaping. The utilities vowed to collaborate with other users in the basin, however their conservation efforts are not likely to make a considerable dent in the river’s water scarcity crisis, KUNC Colorado reports.

– The declining water levels of Lake Powell, which Reclamation predicts could fall to the point of dead pool in the coming years, have had major implications for ecosystems, business owners and residents throughout the region. Without action to save the Colorado River and its reservoirs, Lake Powell is “heading toward catastrophe,” Zak Podmore writes for the Salt Lake Tribune.

How recent legislation will help Western Slope farmers — The #Colorado Farm and Food Alliance

U.S. Capitol building. © Devan King/The Nature Conservancy

Click the link to read the guest column running on The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel website (Mark Waltermire):

Colorado’s farms are at peak production, market season is in full-swing and the season’s bounty is being served up on tables across the state. In this hot weather, as we enjoy Colorado’s local food cornucopia, we should think of the farmers and farmworkers up early and in the fields, working to feed the nation. Farming is hard work, which many people appreciate.

The hard work of farming includes much more than just the field work. It includes building and maintaining ditches to get water to our crops and roads to get those crops to market. So when Congress passed and President Biden signed the infrastructure law this year, I saw it as a boost to my ability to turn hard work in my fields into a living that works for me.

The infrastructure act also makes progress in addressing climate change. Everyone knows drought is a real threat to agriculture, but so is heat. Heat hurts our crops, it hurts our animals and it can be deadly for those who have to work outside. Using this investment to help prepare for a climate-smart and adapted future will be good for farming, too.

Climate change is here, and farming, our food systems and the supply chain are all especially vulnerable. Unless we get ready now, the hurt will only be worse down the road, which is why another new law, the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), also makes good sense.

For agriculture, rural communities and conservation, the IRA is a big win for several reasons. It helps make our farms and communities more resilient. It prioritizes funding to restore and protect watershed and public land health, for instance, and to improve soil health.

The IRA also takes huge steps in reducing the nation’s greenhouse gas pollution. While we need to prepare for the heating that is here and to come by adapting our systems to be more resilient (and the new law begins to do that), we really need to stop making the problem worse.

This legislation does that as well, by increasing the uptake of more renewable energy and supporting rural electric co-ops in that transition. And it accomplishes an important third component, too, just as crucial as these first two. By focusing on improving land health and conservation practices, the IRA can help us better manage carbon by encouraging practices that return and store carbon in the ground, in soils and in natural systems.

The potential here cannot be overstated for western Colorado, and rural communities in particular, should seek to actively lead in this effort to center land-use and agriculture as climate action. For example, an analysis by the Colorado Farm and Food Alliance has found that the ability to store carbon in soil on farmland just within five counties on the Western Slope could be increased by more than ten-fold by shifting to incorporate more cover-cropping.

Relatively small investments in these practices will make a real difference. Resources that help farmers strengthen their resiliency and improve techniques — resources that are increased under the IRA — can be a real boost. The future of farming, even our survivability in the American Southwest, means we need to get this right. Let’s make sure the funding available for infrastructure and in bolstering healthy natural systems and the ecological services they provide finds its way to our farms and ranches.

By investing in rural communities through resources dedicated to restoring land, watershed, and soil health — as well as supporting more home-grown renewable power — we can all help in bringing real benefit to our communities as we address the climate crisis. Western Colorado can and should be a global leader in rural climate action. We should welcome and seize the opportunity the new Inflation Reduction Act brings.

Mark Waltermire owns and operates Thistle Whistle Farm outside of Hotchkiss and is active with the Valley Organic Growers Association, Colorado Farm and Food Alliance and other projects that promote secure, equitable and resilient farms and local food systems.

the Food grown, Beautiful, Delicious, Odd. Photo credit: Thistle Whistle Farm

#ClimateChange Is Ravaging the #ColoradoRiver. There’s a Model to Avert the Worst — The New York Times #COriver #aridification #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

This irrigation canal helps support the Yakima Basin’s $4.5 billion agricultural industry. Photo credit: Washington Department of Ecology

Click the link to read the article on The New York Times website (Henry Fountain). Here’s an excerpt:

…a decade ago, the water managers of the Yakima Basin tried something different. Tired of spending more time in courtrooms than at conference tables, and faced with studies showing the situation would only get worse, they hashed out a plan to manage the Yakima River and its tributaries for the next 30 years to ensure a stable supply of water. The circumstances aren’t completely parallel, but some experts on Western water point to the Yakima plan as a model for the kind of cooperative effort that needs to happen on the Colorado right now…

Representative Melanie Stansbury, a New Mexico Democrat who worked on the Yakima Basin and other water issues for years before being elected to Congress in 2021, said the plan “represents the best of a collaborative, science-based process.”


Climate change and recurring drought had wreaked havoc with the water supply for irrigation managers and farmers in the Yakima Basin, one of the most productive agricultural regions in the country. Conservationists were concerned that habitats were drying up, threatening species. Old dams built to store water had blocked the passage of fish, all but eliminating the trout and salmon that the Indigenous Yakama Nation had harvested for centuries. In droughts, water allocations to many farms were cut. Years of court fights had left everyone dissatisfied, and a proposal in 2008 for a costly new dam and reservoir that favored some groups over others had not helped. Ron Van Gundy, manager of the Roza Irrigation District at the southern end of the basin, went to see Phil Rigdon, director of the Yakama Nation’s natural resources division. The two had been battling for years, largely through lawyers. They both opposed the dam, but for different reasons…

The two met, and eventually other stakeholders, joined them in developing a plan for better management of the river. After several years of give-and-take, the result was the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan, a blueprint for ensuring a reliable and resilient water supply for farmers, municipalities, natural habitats and fish, even in the face of continued warming and potentially more droughts. A decade into the plan, there are tens of millions of dollars’ worth of projects up and down the river designed to achieve those goals, including canal lining and other improvements in irrigation efficiency, increasing reservoir storage, and removing barriers to fish.

Created by Imgur user Fejetlenfej , a geographer and GIS analyst with a ‘lifelong passion for beautiful maps,’ it highlights the massive expanse of river basins across the country – in particular, those which feed the Mississippi River, in pink.