of Water Pipelines
of water pipelines is to transport surface water or groundwater
from one area to another without causing erosion and reducing the
chance of evaporation. Water pipelines are large in diameter and
can supply water to communities and industries over both short and
long distances. Pipelines can be installed underground or above
ground. They can be used to bring in freshwater, or to transport
and dispose of wastewater.
Shortages: Pipelines as a solution?
With the world population
reaching 6 billion and counting, the need for water is growing.
Only 2.4% of all water on Earth is freshwater, and less than 1%
of all freshwater is available for human use. There is no question
that water is absolutely necessary for human survival. However,
over one billion people on Earth already do not have access to a
clean water supply. With a growing population, this number will
drastically increase, especially as we continue to abuse, pollute,
and deplete our current supplies.
Water pipelines provide
a solution to areas lacking a continual and sustainable water source.
These massive pipelines can transfer water quickly and effectively,
avoiding evaporation which can occur in an open water transfer or
diversion. With the incredible power of these pipelines, water can
be extracted from deep within the earth through well pumping. Also,
water can be directly taken from a surface water source. Water is
transported through the pipelines with pumps and the natural force
In the not too distant
future, arid lands that are rapidly being developed will not be
able to sustain their people or their land use practices. With 65%
of all water use going towards irrigation, even more water will
be needed for irrigation as growing regional populations will require
increased agricultural production. Areas such as the southwestern
U.S. are facing huge water shortages as urban sprawl continues to
encroach on the desert. Water pipelines could transfer water to
these areas to increase sustainability.
the need for water to be diverted through pipelines to different
areas, there are several drawbacks that accompany water pipelines.
First, the actual construction of a major water pipeline is extremely
expensive. With manufacturing, labor, and installation, pipeline
projects can cost billions of dollars. In addition, maintenance
must be done every day in order to keep the pipeline working effectively.
Pipelines need to be monitored continually and water quality must
be constantly checked. Because of the great distances that major
water pipelines can cover, maintenance fees are extreme.
Las Vegas Valley Pipeline Installation
of water pipelines is also very taxing on the land. Thousands of
miles of massive pipes can disrupt ecosystems, ruin scenery, and
act as an obstruction. Underground pipelines require huge trenches
to be dug, also disrupting the land.
pressingconflict related to massive water pipelines concerns the
source from which the water is being taken. Whether it be from an
aquifer, a reservoir, or a watershed basin, the diverted water is
being taken away from an ecosystem in which it is needed. The pumping
of water out of these sources can cause severe damage, such as water
level drawdowns, which can affect coastlines, aquatic life, plant
life, and economic activity. The water replenishment rate is not
fast enough to rejuvenate water sources that are being reduced through
also arises in bulk water transfer proposals. The issues of water
privatization is brought to a head: whose water is it anyways? What
about waters on international borders? How can you own, buy, or
sell a resource that is a human right and necessary for all life
forms to survive?
Great Lakes Basin
Lakes Basin is vast source of water, containing 20% of the world's
surface freshwater, and 95% of U.S. surface freshwater. Pipelines
have been discussed and proposed to share the water from this massive
watershed to both nearby
cities and suburbs, and also extending thousands of miles west
and southwest. In the 1980's, there were proposals to pipe Great
Lakes water to the southwest, but were dismissed due to the costliness,
difficult logistics, and strong objections from Great Lake states.
As water continues to be overused and depleted in the western and
southwestern states through agricultural, industrial, and domestic
uses, potential pipeline proposals are not out of the question.
The lakes contain enough water to supply
millions of people with water.
Wisconsin, Exxon's proposed Crandon
Mine, one of North America's largest zinc and copper deposits,
has spurred much controversy
within the state, due to potential toxic waste production, disposal,
and contamination. The region's groundwater, the Wolf River, and
the Mole Lake Chippewa wild rice beds could all be polluted with
toxic mining wastes. In 1995-98, a 40-mile wastewater
pipeline was proposed to transport treated waste water from
the Crandon Mine west to the Wisconsin River near Rhinelander. This
plan was proposed by Exxon to cut costs because the Wisconsin River
does not have as many regulations as the Wolf River. According to
the governors of the Great Lakes states, this diversion of wastewater
would have been violating federal law (Water Resource Development
Act of 1986) by transferring water from the Great Lakes Basin into
the Mississippi Watershed. This "interbasin transfer"
would occur due to the large amount of water needed from the groundwater
of the Wolf River Watershed to transport wastewater 40 miles to
the Wisconsin River. This water transfer would continue for approximately
30 years, tampering with the natural division of water within these
major watersheds. In 2003, the Crandon Mine was defeated by local
Water Pipeline Projects
Libya Pipeline Map
In Libya, a country
dominated by the Sahara Desert, water is scarce. A large aquifer
was found deep beneath the Sahara Desert, holding a volume of water
almost equal to that of the Black Sea. With the growing population
of Libya's coastal cities, the demand for fresh water is increasing.
In 1983, the Great
Man Made River Project was proposed to pump and divert water
from the massive aquifer laying underneath the Libyan Sahara. The
proposed project was to be the biggest underground pipeline network
on earth, costing $27 billion, with some considering it the "8th
wonder of the world." Over 1,300 wells have been drilled down
into the large aquifer, some extending 500 meters (1641 feet) deep.
Water is supplied to the coast over a network of 3,500 km (2174
miles) of pipeline. Over 5 million tons of cement was used to create
the 75-ton pipeline sections. Besides maintenance and a few catastrophic
pipeline bursts, the GMMRP has adequately brought water to the Libyan
people. Construction continues to add on new legs of the pipeline
network. The biggest problem is that the aquifer does not have a
recharge source, and will eventually be completely exhausted. Libya
South Dakota, southwestern Minnesota, and northwestern Iowa, construction
on a 400-mile water pipeline is about to be underway. The Lewis
and Clark Rural Water System consists of five reservoirs and
seven pump stations, supplying and delivering over 27.2 million
gallons of water per day to communities within the tri-state area.
The water will be extracted from a series of wells along the Missouri
River and will supply over 200,000 people with high quality drinking
water. The cost of this project is estimated at about $360 million
and will take 10 to 12 years to complete. In a region that has struggled
with water quality and availability problems due to shallow wells,
drought, and aquifer contamination, this project is an exciting
prospect. Pipeline construction will, however, cut across wetlands,
farmlands, and private property within the three states, posing
several environmental concerns. Also, wildlife groups are concerned
with potentially loud noise levels created by well drilling and