The Bureau of Reclamation is proposing a massive uphill diversion from the Missouri River to Denver. The Missouri River Reuse Project [pdf] would provide 600,000 Acre-Feet of water to the Front Range to as an alternative to desiccating the Upper Colorado even more. This evokes the ghost of the continental engineering of North American Water and Power Alliance (1964) or towing icebergs from Alaska to provide water to Los Angeles.
“The idea of constructing conveyances to move water resources between other basins and the Colorado has been raised before and was once again submitted as an idea in this process,” Bureau of Reclamation public affairs chief Dan DuBray said in a statement. “Any proposal will be evaluated for feasibility, broad support and realistic funding potential before further consideration would be given.” – The Denver Post
Pumping 600,000 acre-feet up 4,440 feet requires a staggering amount of energy: 1.85 kWh (per acre-foot/feet elevation) x 4,440 feet x 600,000 = 4,928 gigawatt hour. This is almost the same amount as Colorado’s total net electricity generation 5,176 gigawatt hour!!!! Digging deeper into the Bureau’s proposal, only 500 CFS (361,983 acre-feet/year) would be delivered to Colorado – so that still would take over half of all electricity from the state. The Bureau totally dodges this in their statement that ‘The amount of electrical energy required for operations would be substantial and needs to be determined based on consideration of reasonable design alternatives.’
In a year of record drought, when the Mississippi River is running so low that navigation is being impacted – a diversion of water at this scale faces a huge political and environmental battle. Water does flow uphill to money – so the question is, can Denver’s 2,599,504 folks compete with the shipping industry that moves $100 billion/year of goods or big-ag that ships 60% of all grain down the Mississippi? But then, the physics of the water-energy nexus may be the simplest obstacle.
A fascinating study of proposed large-scale water projects in North America is:
Benjamin Forest & Patrick Forest ‘s ‘Engineering the North American waterscape: The high modernist mapping of continental water transfer projects’ Political Geography, Volume 31, Issue 3, March 2012, Pages 167–183 [link – may need a subscription to view]
Forest & Forest 2012’s Table 1. North American continental water transfer project proposals 1959–2009
Project Year Author(s) Nationality GRAND Canal Concept 1959 Tom Kierans, Engineer Canadian Great Lakes-Pacific Waterways Plan 1963 Decker Unknown North American Water and Power Alliance (NAWAPA) 1964 The Ralph M. Parsons Company, Engineering Firm, California American Canadian Water Export, Kuiper Plan 1966 Ed Kuiper Canadian Magnum Plan 1966 Knut Magnusson Canadian Stabilization of the Great Lakes 1966 Allan C. R. Albery, Engineer Canadian Central North American Water Project (CeNAWP) 1967 E. Roy Tinney, Canadian, former professor at Washington State University, then Canadian civil servant Canadian Western States Water Augmentation 1968 Lewis Gordy Smith, retired U.S.B.R. engineer American Mexican-United States Hydroelectric Commission (MUSHEC) (expansion of NAWAPA plan) 1968 The Ralph M. Parsons Company, Engineering Firm, California American North American Waters (NAWAMP) 1968 Tweed Unknown Water for Survival 1968 John T. Tucker, retired engineer American Alaska Subsea Pipeline 1991 Gov. Walter Hickel, Alaska American Multinational Resources Proposal 1992 William Clancey (Multinational Water and Power, Inc) Canadian/Multinational Klymchuk 2001 Daniel Klymchuk, policy analyst Canadian Gingras 2009 F. Pierre Gingras, retired engineer Canadian