As recently discussed in The Oregonian, parched Southwest U.S. states recently considered ways they might bring more water to the overtaxed Colorado River, and they imagined snaking a fiberglass straw up the Pacific coast and sipping from the Columbia River. And, as the article notes:
“…That’s probably a pipe dream, but it’s also a recurring vision the drenched Northwest might not want to laugh off forever.
…Is water the new oil, and could Oregon become the new Texas? Could the Northwest sell some of its wealth of water the way Alaska sells oil from its pipeline?
At least one Oregon lawmaker says so, seeing water sales as a way to fund public services without raising taxes. But a veteran of Northwest salmon fights warns the region to resolve its internecine bickering over fish and water so it can mount a united defense if the Southwest comes knocking.
Because, in a drier future, the choices are few: Either people move to the water, migrating northwest as the Southwest runs dry. Or water moves to the people, through a new generation of long-distance pipelines and canals.
“There will be nothing done with water in the West without there being winners and losers,” says Patrick O’Toole, a Wyoming rancher and president of the Family Farm Alliance. Cities may expect to buy water from farms, but that’s not a good solution as global food shortages make farming a crucial national need, he says.
So they may have to look elsewhere.
Oregon laws probably would not allow the sale of water outside the state, but Alaska changed its law years ago so it could pipe water to Los Angeles if the opportunity arose. Asked how much California would have to pay for Alaskan water, former Alaska Gov. Walter “Wally” Hickel said, “Depends how thirsty they are.”
“…That may be a choice Oregon may be faced with or presented with by some states from the Southwest: ‘We’d like to buy your water,’” says Michael E. Campana, director of Oregon State University’s Institute for Water and Watersheds. “That seems preposterous now, but in 30 or 40 years, who knows? I’m not willing to say that’s not going to happen.”
…Two [ideas] involve the Northwest: rerouting water from rivers outside the Colorado drainage, such as the upper Snake, into the Colorado system, and the undersea aqueduct from the Columbia, possibly to Southern California.
The idea builds on studies looking at undersea pipelines from Alaska or Northern California. They found the concept feasible but extremely expensive. The new study discusses a high-strength fiberglass pipeline collecting water near the mouth of the Columbia, below hydroelectric dams, and snaking south offshore.
Pumping stations might be required along the way. The study suggests the cost could top $150 billion — some 20 times Oregon’s annual general fund budget. Feasibility studies alone could be more complex than the $450 million worth of analysis for the trans-Alaska oil pipeline….”
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