We Are Not Ready for Martian-style Canals
#1
For many years people believed there were huge canals on Mars, and this idea was even incorporated into science fiction and space opera stories for decades (not least of which were Edgar Rice Burrough's John Carter stories).

When our telescopes became good enough to see the surface of Mars with some clarity, we learned there were no canals (and the idea was in fact a mistake created by non-Italian media who misunderstood what canali meant - basically illusory "lines" that were observed by astronomers in the 1800s through primitive optical telescopes).

As the western United States dries up in a massive megadrought, people desperate for new sources of water propose a lot of ideas. One such idea is to transfer water from the Mississippi river (via pipeline or canal) to the western states taking too much water from the Colorado river.

*=> Of course, now we know the Mississippi river is drying up because of the megadrought.

The idea of transferring water from the Mighty Mississippi began circulating a few years ago. But is the idea practical or realistic (assuming there were enough water in the Mississippi to share with other regions)?

Well, environmental scientist Roger Viadero's curiosity was piqued by this informal proposal. And so Viadero and his students performed a study to understand if it could or should be done. Their conclusion: Not happening.

Quote:On Oct. 17, he and two doctoral students -- E. Dave Thomas and Samuel Babatunde -- released a 21-page technical analysis of the "physical, economic and environmental magnitude" of potentially diverting trillions of gallons of water from the Mississippi River to the lower Colorado River.

They presented their white paper two days later at the Upper Mississippi River Conference, which was held in Moline, and hope to have it peer-reviewed and published in an academic journal.

"We noticed a lack of information that can be used by the public to weigh the practical aspects of these proposals," wrote the scientists. "This has created a void that’s being filled by proposals that lack realistic goals, violate a number of physical laws, and convey a poor understanding of scale, among other issues."

Their findings, in a nutshell?

"Time, space, ecology, finances, and politics aren’t on the side" of water diverters, they wrote.

The article goes into considerable detail, and also links to Viadero's paper. Basically, it's not worth doing even if we could do it - and there would be considerable environmental damage if we tried to do it.

I still favor the idea of extracting water from the atmosphere. We already have the technology. We just need to figure out the engineering required to scale it up. And, of course, we would need to determine what impact doing that would have on the environment. I suspect there would be tradeoffs even if we could set up massive solar-powered water farms that recharge the aquifers and feed local canal systems. But that might be the only way we get through this decades-long crisis.
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