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Letters to the Editor: Rest of the U.S. to California: Don’t even think of taking more water

A water pumping station in the middle of the desert.
The Iron Mountain plant is one of five pumping stations that carry water from the Colorado River over mountains and through the Mojave Desert to Southern California.
(Los Angeles Times)

Every time California is devastated by drought or wildfires, readers send us their ideas for grand projects pitched as practical, if enormously expensive, adaptions to our changing climate. With an exceptional drought drying much of the West right now, one such idea has gained traction among some of our letter writers: Build another aqueduct.

The most recent example is a letter this week calling for linking the Mississippi River to the Lake Powell reservoir on the Utah-Arizona border with a massive pipeline. To be sure, such a mega-project built over mountain ranges and across two time zones would be infinitely less practical than Southern California making better use of precipitation that falls locally, but it’s hard to fault people in a region that idolizes William Mulholland for this kind of thinking. Massive aqueducts that import water from hundreds of miles away — and devastate fragile ecological treasures in the process — allowed Los Angeles to become what it is, and quickly.

While support for this kind of heroic engineering might be expected in Los Angeles, it doesn’t go over well in other parts of the country — as you’ll see in the letters here.

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To the editor: Shunting water between the Mississippi River and Lake Powell on the Colorado River would require at least 1,500 miles of pipeline. A pipeline large enough to carry a meaningful flow of water would be enormous and enormously expensive.

Next, the elevation difference between Lake Powell and the Mississippi River is indeed 3,700 feet, but the pipeline would have to cross the Continental Divide at a significantly higher elevation.

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Then, there is the matter of overcoming the friction of flowing water. The energy needed for this would be vast. Only a small fraction of the energy used to pump the water would be recovered at the delivery end.

I am afraid the fantasy of supplying water from the Mississippi or another faraway source is just that — a fantasy.

Fred Barker, Burbank

The writer is a retired water works engineer with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

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To the editor: Californians must be the greediest people on the planet. You use up all of your water resources, and now some of you want to go east and use up our resources. Keep your hands off of our water and build yourself some desalination plants.

You people are unbelievable. Just because your neck of the woods is drying up because you can’t responsibly use your own resources does not give you the permission to take from others.

Why don’t you move to where the water is instead of trying to steal it from others?

Jeffery Martin, Birmingham, Ala.

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To the editor: Once again I see letters that advocate building a pipeline from the Mississippi River and even the Gulf states across the country to fill the Colorado River reservoirs so California can get drinking and irrigation water.

Are Californians going to exercise eminent domain to take the land and rights of way in the affected states? In case those of you in California don’t know, the Gulf states have droughts too from time to time.

It would cost billions for land acquisition plus more billions to build and operate the pipeline, and who is going to pay for it?

California has 840 miles of coastline. Put in a bunch of large-scale desalinization plants and get all the water you want that way.

Donald Armstrong, Henniker, N.H.

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To the editor: Why would any part of the country send you water? Shelve your sanctimonious preaching and solve your own problems.

California has banned almost all taxpayer-funded travel to multiple states in this country, and now some of you think the rest of us should save your bacon. Physician, heal thyself.

Chris Valvo, Post Falls, Idaho

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To the editor: Leave the Mississippi River alone. If the folks in California can’t figure out how to harness the rain when it comes, you have no right to take anything from the Mississippi.

Linda Ryan, Kansas City, Mo.

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To the editor: Thanks to the reader who called for building a pipeline to the Colorado River.

With all the engineers and think tanks in this country, you would think someone has already imagined this solution. I think about it every time I read of flooded states and California entering another terrible fire season.

I’m sure conceiving of and executing such a plan would be worthy of something akin to a Nobel Prize, as persistent drought and catastrophic wildfires affect so many people.

Diane Merendino, Marina del Rey

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To the editor: To expand on the letter calling for a pipeline from the Mississippi River, I suggest that whatever is built be a siphon.

As long as the inflow (the Mississippi River) is higher than the outflow (say, Death Valley), the magical laws of physics state that it would require no energy, even when going over the Rockies, once it was started (which would require energy).

Richard B. Tenser, Los Angeles

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To the editor: It would be difficult enough to build a water pipeline that’s more than 1,000 miles. But to also lift that water over the Rockies and into Lake Powell at 3,700 feet so it could power the Hoover, Glen Canyon and Parker dams would require more electrical power than that water would generate from those dams.

David Fink, Los Angeles


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