Science & Health

Can California Drought-Proof Itself With This Pair Of Giant Gravity-Powered Water Tunnels?

As part of his State of the State address, California Governor Jerry Brown released a new video to explain his plan for protecting California’s water supply. According to Brown, it will not only drought-proof the state’s water, but also make it earthquake-proof, terrorism-proof, and climate change-proof. Ambitious.

The massive infrastructure project, called the California Water Fix, will essentially undo the antiquated and inefficient technology in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which relies on a series of pumps to draw water uphill from increasingly threatened sources. Brown wants to dig two 12m diameter gravity-powered tunnels that divert fresh water in the north, bypassing the Delta completely, and move it south to the state’s agriculture interests.

Can California Drought-Proof Itself With This Pair of Giant Gravity-Powered Water Tunnels?

Supporters say the project will protect the environment while ensuring that people have enough water. The plan also would upgrade the water transfer system so it wouldn’t be as susceptible to the gigantic earthquake that’s coming any day now. And given the additional threat of rising sea levels, a water supply from a source that won’t soon be submerged in saltwater makes sense.

Not everyone agrees with the plan, and it’s only one potential solution to a much bigger problem (that the state’s water policy hasn’t been completely overhauled is kind of mind-boggling). I see the need to upgrade decades-old pumps, but Brown’s plan is essentially still the old model of diverting water from rivers to deliver it to farmers. Moving more water around only works as long as you’ve got enough water to do it. Which is why any major water plan should maybe be more about conservation and storage than the assumption that we’ll still have rivers with enough water to divert them.

[California Water Fix]

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