The United States has a systemic water shortage in the Southwest and a natural water surplus in the Great Lakes. At the same time, the country desires more high-paying jobs and infrastructural investments. So, to permanently alleviate our Southwestern water shortage and create quality jobs across numerous states, the United States should build a pipeline from the Great Lakes to its Southwest.
Perhaps, depending on engineering and other considerations, the construction of multiple and indirect pipelines would best serve Americans. For instance, a glance at a map of major waterways shows that a relatively short pipeline could connect Lake Superior to the Upper Mississippi River (via the St. Croix River). Likewise, a short pipeline could connect Lake Michigan to the Middle Mississippi River (via the Illinois River).
With the Great Lakes connected to the Mississippi River, a pipeline(s) could then be built from the southern half of the Mississippi heading west to supply Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California. Just as we might use the existing rivers to move water from the Great Lakes into the Mississippi River, we might also be able to pipeline water into the Rio Grande and Colorado Rivers.
The possible connection of the Mississippi River to states in the Southwest itself raises a question. Might there already be a reliable surplus of fresh water being dumped into the Gulf of Mexico? If so, then tapping the Great Lakes may not even be necessary. Or, perhaps infrastructure could be built so that the lakes would only serve as emergency backups.
Where it would be logistically appropriate, human-made rivers (aqueducts) may substitute for actual piping. So too, it may be possible to build new reservoirs along plausible water routes. Such alternatives could provide increased wildlife habitat and opportunities for outdoor recreation on new lakes. Might we even generate additional hydro-power from various points along the new water route(s)?
Among issues to consider is the environmental impact on the Great Lakes. How much water could be drained from the lakes if they were tapped?
The Great Lakes contain 20% of Earth’s fresh water, and Lake Superior alone has 10%. In contrast, at full capacity, the Colorado River system, which includes the major reservoirs serving Arizona, Nevada, and Southern California, contains less than 0.04%. So, if the entire Colorado River System went completely dry, it would take less than 1/500th of the Great Lakes’ resources to refill the system.
The Great Lakes and Mississippi River have a reliable surplus of water that exceeds anything the American Southwest could ever need. At the same time, we have a surplus of job seekers and broad support for infrastructure investments. Being the United States, we have the ingenuity to connect our water surplus to our water deficit.
Before the end of 2021, we need to initiate a rapid and robust feasibility study regarding a great American waterway.