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

22 thoughts on “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

  1. Simply stop overheating the planet by rectifying the ecological disaster created by Midwestern farmers for the last 150 years. One hundred years ago Californians effectively began moving water. We just need a majority in the Senate and house to create prosperity for every state. We can begin by creating grasslands in New Mexico, Wyoming, and west Texas! Build from that to replenish the Colorado river.

      1. I read that and thought seriously, how is it Midwestern farmers causing anything.

      2. James,
        Your contribution to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are exacerbating the Climate Crisis. You are not alone here, the U.S. is the largest emitter historically and now other countries are catching up even while U.S. emissions are going up. It is the greenhouse effect on the water cycle that is causing the deepening drying of the Colorado River Basin. Everyone is culpable.

        Thanks for commenting.

        John Orr

    1. We pay Canada $250 million a year to manage snow melt running into the Columbia River

      Use that money to fund a system to pump water from McNary dam to Flaming Gorge

  2. Proposed route right over the top of the Ogallala aquifer without sharing any water to recharge it. It would be advantageous to proponents to start pointing out benefits to the impacted states. And please treat the water. The diversion point is after the Mississippi water has been used many times and has quite a few organisms not native to the Colorado river basin.

    1. Isn’t Mississippi River water lousy with sewage as well as farm and industrial chemicals by the time it reaches the Gulf of Mexico? I’m not a biologist but I picture a nice warm, 1000 mile long pipeline working a fantastic incubator for bacteria to grow. Filling reservoirs with that stuff sounds like punishment for the western states.

      1. You are absolutely correct. Mississippi river waters are polluted to the point you can’t even swim in it safely from what I have read. Wouldn’t it make more sense to bring it DOWNHILL from Oregon. The coastal towns get many feet of water every year unused and washed out to sea. Just a thought! Another idea would be to bring in desalinated water from the ocean. Building a huge plant to do that perhaps would be less costly and less time consuming in my minds eye. Also those who think there is a danger of oceans wiping away valuable coastal real estate might think it a good idea. Middle east nations have been doing it for years.

  3. This appears to be a distraction from the core problem, over-allocation. The United States needs a permanant cut by 4Maf in high reliability water share per year from the current level of use on the colorado basin. No diversion scheme will fix a system water rights that ignores actual inflows.

    1. Thanks for commenting. I agree that the Colorado River Compact needs to be adjusted to the river’s hydrology. Brad Udall and Eric Kuhn have been trying to convince folks for years that the river doesn’t produce enough streamflow above Lees Ferry to meet the compact requirements. The adjustment needs to include river health and the tribes and then what is left over could be allocated by percentages calculated from the original compact requirements.

      John Orr

  4. Well I’m from the great state of Louisiana and this is my feelings. How and who is going to pay for this pipeline? And next if the world, especially California, is going all electric, where they gonna get the electricity to run those gigantic motors and pumps. Louisiana ain’t gonna pay for the pipeline or the electricity to run them. And the rest of the US should not be taxed to supply the water to them. Sure we have flood problems every year, but when we do I don’t see California sending us any help. We just have learned to live with our problems. Let California and those western states get there water from the ocean, take the salt out and then recycle there water. They want to empose hardship on us southern boys and girls so they can continue to cram there rules and laws down the throats of the rest of the country. Well my vote is to leave things along and let God handle their needs.

    1. Kenneth,
      Thanks for commenting.

      You have hit on many of the obstacles to a pipeline. Several similar pipelines and projects have been imagined over the years and none have moved much beyond drawing a proposed route from the Mississippi, Missouri, Columbia, Great Lakes.

      However, Louisiana benefits from California being one of the largest economies in the world and the source of much of the winter food grown in the U.S. along with Arizona. Case in point, I bet you used technology developed in CA to contact me today. Also, CA has not sought to impose, “hardship on us southern boys and girls so that they can cram there [sic] rules and laws down the throats of the rest of the country.” That is just meaningless hyperbole on your part.

      John Orr

      1. Anyone think about what changing the saline content or The Gulf of Mexico would do to the inviroment???

    2. I can understand your attitude of not wanting to pay to deal with the harm caused by someone else’s long term wattage. But consider: California sends approximately NINE TIMES more federal tax money to Washington DC than Louisiana does. Therefore, your comment about California not sending you any help when those in your state need it… is not really valid. In fact, California pays more federal tax than any other state, and by a fairly significant amount. What that means, in practical terms is that, whenever your state – or my state, or any other state – receives any kind of federal money, more of that money came from California than from any other state.

      I could get behind the concept of a federal tax for water-related issues. But only if we nationalized the country’s municipal water system, created ONE standard for drinking water and did what had to be done to ensure that every US citizen had access to water that met that standard… and also if someone figured out how many people each region of the country had enough water to support – and then applied a modifier to that tax, based on the actual number of people each region contained. In other words, if your region contained approximately as many people as it could support (in regards to water resources), you pay 100% of the base tax amount per gallon of water you consume. If your region has significantly less people than it has water resources to support, you pay significantly less than that. And if, on the other hand, your region has 100 times the amount of people than the water required to support them, well… 100X the 100% tax equals 10,000% of the base tax value. I’m thinking that could lead to some $1,000+ water bills each month, lol, depending on what that base tax amount ends up being. If that doesn’t convince people to stop trying to grow green lawns (and gold courses) and fill swimming pools in the desert, I don’t know what will. . . .

  5. Just wanted to add a few things here.

    The proposed pipeline in red would partially work, it does however ignore the hardest part of the journey, the past over the Rockies, specifically over the continental divide. Second there would have to be another route added, like a split, if the pipeline is that far north. This is because the Rio Grande would need to have some water, not a lot, just to maintain a minimum flow to maintain the farms.

    Now for the people complaining about the water consumption as the problem. The majority of the water from the Colorado (from most rivers in the southwest) goes to farming. So let’s assume we cut the water rights to farming. First off the huge impact will be to the fruits and veggies that get eaten during winter, as 95% of the us consumed Winter veggies come from the Colorado river water. Following the half of growth, there would be a huge amount of farmers abandoning their land to move somewhere out east, why stay in the west when there isn’t water to sustain their income. This mass migration would cause so much more problems such as; mad clearing of forests to create more farm land, huge impacts on water where ever they move to, of they can’t find a place then a bigger impact on all Americans and the foods we eat.

    So yes, the southwest does have a lot of water pulled off the rivers in the southwest. However it isn’t just a southwest problem. This problem could devastate our entire country. In the past natural disasters, like this drought affecting a huge chunk of the US (it’s not just the southwest, it’s across the entire country), has killed off entire civilizations.

    If we don’t come up with a way to not only save the southwest, but the entire country, while not destroying a huge chunk of farms that feed this country, we may see the end of an era of our civilization.

  6. Stop eating meat for breakfast lunch and dinner. Just try it. I’m 59 and have now not eaten any fish in five years, and eat meat 2 to 3 time’s a month. Meat also causes a lot of the greenhouse gases, warming up mother earth..
    She’ll be fine without humans, so just think about it. If you had to kill your meat, how much would you eat then??

    1. Kerry, I’m a farmer in Ohio. I mostly eat meat because of I developed a bucket loads of food aversions after I hit 15.

      Can’t eat most veggies to partial anosmia. Eating food that tastes like garbage isn’t what I call appealing. In truth, it’s nauseating.

      Allergic to most fruit..and what I can have I’m either sick of or I have never liked in my life. Like pears or apples. Downright nasty stuff in my book.

      Lactose intolerant, can’t eat mushrooms, and allergic to eggs. That last one hurts the most. Eggs sre my favorite things to eat. I might eat two a year, if I can muster up the courage to deal with the side effects.

      I myself love on a spread of land that’s been in the fam for over 120 years. I live on the property, but in a wooded area and away from parents. That said, I maintain the fruit trees (I like to make homemade wine and champagne) and the chickens, ducks, and geese. While I do have a core group of birds I consider to be pets, the others are my food.

      I also barter with my neighbors (almost all are Amish) for other meat. Like lamb, beefalo, some cuts of beef…and I let hunters hunt in deer season for a portion of the meat each year. Needless to say, I tend to make a lot of jerky.

      Point is, what veggies I can eat I refuse to eat daily because I WILL get sick of them. There’s only 4 veggies I like or can eat without getting sick.

      I’ll be 45 soon. I’ve tried workarounds to eat the things I can’t and they’ve all either made me incredibly sick or landed me in the hospital due to my food allergies. For me that way of living or eating is not feasible for me.

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