North American deserts.
North American deserts are huge in size and form a singe desert group made
up of the Nevada Great Basin, the Mojave Desert, and Sonora Desert,
covering together an area of 450,000 square miles or 288 million acres. To make the
deserts biologically productive, 'precipitation' needs to be artificially
enhanced by means of irrigation. Productive farm lands
typically receive 35 to 40 inches of precipitation per year, for the
desert block listed above the input requirement therefore adds up to 864 million
acre/feet per year or 33,696 cubic meters per second.
North American Great Plains.
entire great plains area, roughly 500,000 square miles, is slightly larger
than the area of the desert group listed above. However, the Great Plains
area receives on average 15 inches of natural precipitation, so that the upgrade
requirement adds up to only 400 MAF/yr or app, 15,600 cm/s. The rivers
crossing the plains
presently drain away 61 MAF/yr into the Mississippi via the Missouri
River. If half of that can be recovered with advanced water
management, a total of 370 MAF/yr of additional water would be required to make the area optimally
requirements added together, the deserts and the plains, add up to 1,234
would one look for the needed resources?
first glance it
seems impossible that water needs on this gigantic scale can be met. In the early
1960s the Caliornia-based engineering firm of
Ralph M. Parsons Co. put together a proposal to divert
southward 15% of the Mackenzie and Yukon River runoff in northern
Canada and Alaska now going into the Arctic Ocean. The plan is to tap the sources
at a high altitude, and then to channel it south through
Mountain trench that would become a 500 mile long reservoir, staging the water for routing
it across various routes, reaching as far as Mexico. The original
proposal was for a transfer volume of 100 MAF/yr, which was later upgraded
to 160 MAF/yr, of which 50 MAF/yr became lost due to the hydroelectric
development at the Peace River, leaving a theoretical flow-through of 110 MAF/yr
when the project becomes completed at the end of a 30 to 50 year construction period.
The program became known as NAWAPA (North American Water and Power
plan is a typical (for the 1960s) corporate
proposal that would have made the construction company that proposed it exceedingly rich,
as the entire plan consists of 369 separate projects including a giant dam
1,700 feet tall (three and a half times as high as the Great Pyramid in
Egypt), and two lesser dams, one only 900 feet tall, all to be built in the sub arctic,
in permafrost county that is frozen over for half a year.
half a century of construction, the plan then would deliver 110 MAF/yr,
1,124 MAF/yr shortfall for what is needed. Nor would the plan be expandable.
NAWAPA plan is currently in the news again to signify the necessary
mission orientation as a starting platform to start the economic recovery
of the USA after its near total collapse in the wake of years of
bailout-looting of its economy on to top of decades of prior looting. A
giant project is needed on the scale of the old NAWAPA to restart the US
economy and that of the world. NAWAPA would provided millions of jobs
almost instantly, the scale of the construction effort that is involved is
that big. (See an
interactive map of it). The American economist and statesman Lyndon
LaRouche, who brought NAWAPA to the foreground again, concedes however that the
plan itself is not practical, while its mission
orientation is so critical that the continued existence of civilization
may depend on it.
what would a practical plan look like?
alternative to the original plan was proposed in the 1970s. The alternate
plan was to collect the
outflow of the Yukon River and divert it south via an underwater
pipeline. This was considered a "cheap" option as it would
bypass the huge construction efforts, but the option
never got off the ground, most likely for the reason that the water of the
Yukon River is considered undrinkable. And even then, had this plan been
carried out, diverting the entire Yukon outflow, this option would have
upgraded the plan to only 160 MAF, leaving a deficit of over a billion acre
feet per year.
option that President Franklin Delanor Roosevelt (FDR) might have
considered, would involve creating an underwater pipeline, fed by the
outflow of the Orinoco River in Venezuela at an average outflow of
33,000 cm/s - app. 846 MAF/yr. This massive flow rate (almost three times
that of the Mississippi) would be sufficient to satisfy the
needs of the North American deserts. FDR would likely have chosen this
option. He was always thinking in big terms, never in tiny
terms and dribbles. When he launched the TVA (the Tennessee Valley
Authority), he was thinking in terms of uplifting an entire region. The
TVA was a huge enterprise in its days, and it did more than meet a
a thin-walled flexible pipeline from Venezuela across the Gulf of Mexico to the gulf-side of the USA, and Mexico, would be in the TVA kind of
would be relatively easily built with high temperature
manufacturing processes that nuclear power readily enables. The line would
also have a below-sea-level
branch across the states of Veracruz and Oxaca, and from there be routed north to the top
end of the Gulf of California and into the western deserts. The
construction effort would have been relatively short term in duration.
FDR's TVA projects were
all 'quick' projects, not 30-50 year projects. The TVA
started in 1933. Seventeen later, after numerous projects had come on line,
the TVA was the largest electricity producer in the USA. And even now, it
is still growing. It is adding nuclear units to its capacity. The Venezuela pipeline
could be on that time scale. It could have the first water flowing in five to
seven years, with a fully functioning distribution network in operation in
ten to fifteen years, complete with brand new cities, millions of free
houses, and brand new industries springing up
dynamically along the progress lines of the greening of the deserts. The
economic benefits derived from the process would of course be shared across the region.
the Great Plains
likely, no massive water input into the Great Plains region would be
needed. The effect of hydrolyzing 300 million acres of dessert area in the
west would have a sufficiently massive spill-over effect in the east across
the Mountains. In most areas of the plains the need for irrigation would
even when the worst case should materialize that the new moisture would
not fall behind the maintains, the
needed 370 MAF/yr of irrigation waters that the plains would then require
to become optimally productive, can be supplied from 'local' sources - local meaning the watershed surrounding Hudson Bay. The inflowing
waters can be collected with an underwater pipeline system, stored in
an underwater reservoir, and pumped out from there for distribution through an overland pipeline
system, pumped all the way up to the needed elevations with nuclear-powered pumping
stations at various places along the way. In five to seven years the first water would be
flowing in this system as well.
The building of nuclear power plants is no longer
a decades long effort. Quick results can now be wrought. With the simple reactor design of the Liquid Fluoride
Thorium Reactor (LFTR) that requires no huge pressure vessels as the
boiling water reactors do, many thousands of LFTR units could be mass produced,
scaled to any size, and
be in operation in a relatively short timeframe.
Hudson Bay supply feature might be included in FDR's
option for the Great Plains requirements. The Hudson Bay watershed is so
large that some of it might even be used later on to augment the Venezuela line, should
the needs for fresh water in the south increase. The augmenting of the
Venezuela line might be implement with a pipeline flowing out
of Hudson Bay through the Atlantic and south to the Gulf of
the Venezuela pipeline and the additional waters, the South American deserts would
also be richly supplied, and in
short order. The Sechura Desert in Peru (188,000 sqkm) and the Atacama
Desert in Chile (46,000 sqkm) would be high priority candidates. Their
combined area of 57 million acres would be adequately supplied with 170
MAF/yr, a relatively small amount in the over-all scheme of 1,400 MAF/yr
for the entire North/South region.
FDR-type water project on this scale would naturally be matched by the Eurasian
and African nations, once it becomes recognized that productive projects
are wealth-creating for any nation through the end-products that they
would be logical then that the long-outstanding Sahara Dessert project would
get under way almost instantly, and in a similar big way (not in dribbles
and drabs). The Sahara is 3.6 million square miles big (2.3 billion
acres). To bring this giant land up to farm standard, a total of 7 billion
acre feet of water per year would be required (or 273,000 cm/s). There is
just enough water in the combined outflow of the Amazon and Congo Rivers
to meet this need. The submerged distribution system could feed into the
Sahara at several different low-elevation places. Also there might be
enough slack in the system to supply in addition the needs of the Kalahari Desert in
South Africa, and the Namib Desert.
for big results
for big results to meet the big needs, and this as fast as possible and in the
most efficient manner, is the only option mankind has. We need results
fast, because mankind is dying under many decades of forced
underdevelopment. A billion people - a sixth of all mankind - are living
in a state of chronic hunger, if one can call this "living". The old NAWAPA plan was designed to make a construction company
rich, but not the world. FDR would have taken the orientation of the plan and turned it into something
really big in results, something that meets the immediate needs of mankind and beyond that
makes the entire world rich thereby.
option, and a practical option to some degree, is desalination. The
current technology is beginning to utilize the waste heat that
is inherent in nuclear power systems, and to apply it to the desalination
of seawater. Rates of 500,000 cubic meters per day, per unit, are found to
about 6cm/s per unit (4 times the current flow rate of the Arkansas
next option, beyond desalination, would be water-conservation in indoor agricultural systems.
While nuclear desalination is on the upswing, indoor agriculture will
likely overtake this trend in the distant future.
then there is one more option
would likely come into play long before we would run out of water. This
option is to collect the melt waters of the arctic and Antarctic, and even
to utilize the waters of the lakes within their ice. Antarctica is known to have 140 freshwater lakes imbedded
in its ice. The largest is believed to have a volume of 5,400 cubic
kilometers (5,400 billion cubic meters). At a drainage rate of 11,000 cm/s
(slightly less than the Mississippi,) such a lake would flow for 540
is just one catch with that. The water is at minus three degrees C.. It
remains liquid only because of the great pressure from the ice resting
above it, which makes the recovery of the water it a bit of a challenge.
But what of it? More difficult challenges have been met.
point is, if we think big, we will never run out of options, but if we
grind ourselves to the bone for small results in distant times, as the
1960s NAWAPA scheme would have us to do, we won't live long enough to see the
end of it. Lyndon LaRouche said recently, "If you don't think big,
your thinking is less than tiny."
NAWAPA - part 1 - greening the deserts
NAWAPA - part 2 - infrastructures for the Noosphere
an exploration of the 1960s plan
NAWAPA dialog - how to raise it to a higher level?
Wells or FDR
- contrasting orientations
a FDR NAWAPA - how would Franklin Delanor Roosevelt have responded to
- what increases the power of humanity
Infrastructures - the power at hand to snub the Ice Age
Age Collapse - a challenge to mankind to raise its humanist power
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