'Shovel-Ready' Jobs Could Help Relieve Droughts


We have floods costing billions in part of the country and droughts costing billions in other parts -- imagine a “shovel ready” job to address both issues.

The Mississippi River’s main function is to move freight, and being able to better control the flooding of the Mississippi and the result that would have on flood zones and insurance rates in those areas would be enormous. The 1993 Mississippi River flood cost an estimated $15 billion in damages.

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This past summer, cattle was being sold in West Texas because feed prices had been driven up so high due to drought that it was cheaper to sell them than to feed them. If they couldn’t be sold, it was cheaper to slaughter them for food than to keep them.

Civilizations have moved water over great areas for centuries; think of the possibility of moving the excess from the Mississippi River to the Ogallala aquifer and the Colorado River.

A plan is in place to do just that.

Just as we are the only developed country in the world without an energy policy, we also have no long-term water policy and are looking at water shortages that will hurt, and potentially cripple, municipalities in the near future in the Southwest.

Pat Mulroy, general manager of the Nevada Southern Water Authority, has a plan to move excess water from the Mississippi River through 775 miles of pipeline, canals and tunnels to Southwestern Colorado. The Ogallala aquifer would be replenished and the needs of municipalities for the next 30-50 years downstream, all the way to California, would be taken care of.

Black and Veatch were commissioned to do a study to see how much this would cost and came up with an $11.37 billion price tag. Other estimates have ranged as high as $23 billion (Gary Hausler's plan).

Mulroy has helped cut consumption by conservation efforts in her region of Nevada from 2002-2010 by one-third, despite an increase in population of 400,000. Environmentalists will argue that conservation alone is enough. However, a water shortage is inevitable with conservation plans in place and is already happening; you can’t conserve 90% of your water.

Lake Mead is the lowest level it has been this past year since it first filled up in the 1930s. Power has been cut by 20% from Hoover Dam due to shortage. Lake Mead serves over 20 million people, and a Scripps study says there's a 50% chance that by 2017 Lake Mead will no longer have the ability to produce hydropower. Lake Mead is currently back to around 1,115 feet (1,125 feet above sea level is considered drought level).

The seven states that receive water from the Colorado account for 19% of total US GDP, not counting the states in the flood zones of the Mississippi River.

China is building a $62 billion north-south corridor of thousands of miles of water pipelines to furnish its northern cities with water from the southern rivers.

The Hoover Dam was a massive water project done for both flood control (to prevent flooding in the Imperial Valley in Southern California) and water use. We now lack the political will to do something grand.

The Mississippi has around 350 million cubic feet per year flow down the river. This audacious project creates the “shovel ready” jobs politicians want and creates long-term solutions to a water problem that most acknowledge but few are doing anything about.

The state of Texas has had plans similar to this in both ideas and scope since the 1960s, but none have been funded. Sadly, this plan also has very little chance of success -- not due to feasibility but due to a lack of leadership and foresight in Washington DC.

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