L O N G D I S TA N C E W AT E R T R A N S F E R S V I A P I P E L I N E S A R E N O T S U S TA I N A B L E Wisdom lies in correctly discerning where we are free to mould reality according to our wishes and where we must

accept the unalterable with tranquility. 1 DEFINITIONS Sustainability (broad definition): Sustainability, as used here is the re-engineering of complex economic support systems that enable these existing systems to transition from high Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI) sources to systems capable of operating at lower thermodynamic states without experiencing disruptive nonlinearities or collapse. 2 Sustainability (water definition): the maximum economically extractable withdrawals from the basin during any defined period that does not exceed the sustainable yield of the basin.3 The permeability of the aquifer, water quality in the aquifer, and the cost of energy for withdrawals primarily determine whether the water is economically extractible for use.4 LONG DISTANCE WATER TRANSFERS ARE RARELY SUSTAINABLE The effect of long distance transfers of water from one watershed to another is merely an expedient physical engineering solution that pushes off or postpones to some future date the full realization of the actual scarcity of supply.5 Not only is the historical record replete with examples of communities running out of supply of adequate freshwater, but communities have run out even as they have dug additional and deeper wells and/or they have built pipelines to augment local water supply from new sources afar. The first deep wells were dug by hand over three thousand years ago and transporting water from afar through pipelines has been going on for more than two thousand years. Thus, the modern equivalents such as the half-mile deep wells in the northern-China breadbasket and the $35 billion pipeline to transport freshwater to Libya from the deep Kufrah aquifer under the Sahara Desert only differ in scale and cost as to what has been commonly attempted before. Pipelines typically fail for two reasons: (1) the producing source from which the pipeline draws its water declines over time for a variety of reasons and the pipeline is no longer able to provide adequate supply for the needs of the community on the receiving end of the pipeline. This is essentially what is occurring today for all pipelines that withdraw water from the Colorado River Basin; and (2) the community runs out of the economic resources to adequately operate, repair and replace its existing pipeline{s) so that over time they fall into disrepair and no longer serve their purpose.

Lyle Brecht DRAFT 1.4 -- Tuesday, July 6, 2010

APPLIED ECOLOGY RESEARCH

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L O N G D I S TA N C E W AT E R T R A N S F E R S V I A P I P E L I N E S A R E N O T S U S TA I N A B L E FEW EXISTING PIPELINE PROJECTS WILL PROVIDE SUSTAINABLE SUPPLY One of the largest diversion projects in the world is a Libyan water pipeline: the ~$35 billion 2,174 mile "Great Man-Made River Project" to tap four 14,00038,000 year old aquifers and one 7,000 year-old aquifer under the Sahara Desert containing as much water as is in the Black Sea; The Canadian national government is discussing banning transnational transfers of water from Manitoba to Texas, via pipeline. The water pipeline between Manitoba and Texas is estimated to cost between $4-$9 billion; The largest water pipeline project in the US presently under construction is the $360M Lewis & Clark Rural Water System that taps aquifers adjacent to the Missouri River near Vermillion, SD and will deliver 27.2M GPD to 300,000 residents of MN, SD, and northwestern IA through 337 miles of pipeline ; The state of Utah has proposed a $500M pipeline from Lake Powell to serve St. George/Washington County, Utah; China’s Tibetan Western Route of its South-North Water Transfer Project will begin construction in 2010 to divert water from the Tibetan Highlands to the Yellow River, joining the Central and Western Routes, already under construction to divert water from the Yangtze River for Beijing. This diversion will consist of three 1,100 kilometer channels and pipelines, costing ~US $300 billion. ALL LONG DISTANCE TRANSFERS HAVE DISCRETE USEFUL LIVES The Pont du Gard bridge, 275 meters long and 48 meters high, which crosses the canyon of the Gardon River may be one of the most famous long distance water transfer conveyances in history. The bridge is constructed of stone blocks, some weighing as much as a 6 tons, which were placed without mortar. The aqueduct was completed by Roman soldiers (the aqueduct was maintained by slaves) sometime between 19 BC and AD 60 for an estimated 30 million sesterces when the inhabitants of Nesausas (modern-day Nimes) in Provence, France decided that they wanted more water for their city than nature had granted them.6 The diversion began at a spring at Ucetia (present-day Eure at Uzès) and then passed over a series of underground and above ground (covered) structures to the catchment basin in the city of Nesausas, a distance of 50 kilometers (31 miles), as engineered. The water was used to irrigate the baths and fountains of their city - so that the citizens of Nesauras would never be forced to suffer the frustration of not having enough water for their baths.7

Lyle Brecht DRAFT 1.4 -- Tuesday, July 6, 2010

APPLIED ECOLOGY RESEARCH

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L O N G D I S TA N C E W AT E R T R A N S F E R S V I A P I P E L I N E S A R E N O T S U S TA I N A B L E ECONOMICS OF LONG DISTANCE WATER TRANSFERS 8 When the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) was building the many dams in the Colorado River Basin, they assumed the useful life of these dams was around 700-years. Thus, the economic assumption was that the dismantlement and replacement costs of these dams could be assumed to be zero for the purposes of calculating a present value (PV) cost of the project. Unfortunately, many of these dams useful life appears to be around 100-years for a variety of factors. Not only have many of these dams produced economic benefits vastly less than expected, it is unclear whether their net economic contribution has been positive during their foreshortened useful lives. 9 Pipeline projects exhibit similar problems with calculating their economic usefulness. Typically, PV analyses assume 40-years as the cutoff period for imagining a useful discount rate. This again assumes the costs of replacement and/or dismantling the project after its useful life is zero. This is not the case. The economics of pipelines are that the O&M costs may equal the capital costs of the pipeline during its useful life; the replacement costs are often a multiple (1.5x-3.0x) the original capital cost, and the dismantling of the pipeline, should this occur are non-trivial. And, the entire analysis typically assumes the value of the water itself is zero, which is another economic fiction, especially if the transfers exceed the sustainable yield of the water source. An additional economic issue with present pipeline cost estimates is that they invariably rely on stationarity to predict available water supply discounting the local impacts of climate change, climate variability and impacts on long-term supply. 10 ENDNOTES:
1

Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca (c. 4 BC – AD 65) that builds on Socrates example: “other people may be wrong, even when they are in important positions, even when they are espousing beliefs held for centuries by vast majorities. And the reason is simple: they have not examined their beliefs logically.” . Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy (New York: Pantheon Books, 2000), 20, 107.
2

In 1930, EROEI of oil, natural gas and coal was 100:1; today EROEI of oil, gas, wind is 15:1; large hydropower 11:1; conventional coal 10:1; newly found oil, photovoltaic solar 8:1; clean coal 5:1 (better carbon emissions control through carbon capture and sequestration but coal ash and heavy metals pollution); fuel cell, geothermal, nuclear 4:1 (nuclear’s carbon footprint is ~ 66 gCO2e/kWh, less than 960 gCO2e/kWh for conventional coal but for every dollar spent on nuclear, 5X-6X more carbon could be reduced with end-use efficiency, or renewables); oil shale and Alberta tar sands 3:1 (Athabasca Valley tar sands have largest carbon footprint of any oil production); LNG 2:1; ethanol (from corn) 1.3:1; hydrogen 0.8:1; nuclear fusion (unknown). See, Charlie Hall, “Balloon Graph;” The Oil Drum (www.theoildrum.com); Thomas Homer-Dixon, The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization (Washington, DC, Island Press, 2006).

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L O N G D I S TA N C E W AT E R T R A N S F E R S V I A P I P E L I N E S A R E N O T S U S TA I N A B L E
Sustainable Yield: the maximum quantity of water that can be produced annually from a groundwater basin under a given set of conditions without causing damage to existing ecosystems within the basin. The sustainable yield is almost always lower than the safe yield. Surface waters and groundwater are interconnected. They may be thought of as a single resource. Over-pumping groundwater can impact surface flows, reducing the water available to support the fauna and flora of the Park’s desert ecosystem. T.C. Winter et. al. Ground Water and Surface Water, a Single Resource (U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1139, 1999) in Howard G. Wilshire, Jane E. Nielson, and Richard W. Hazlett, The American West at Risk: Science, Myths, and Politics of Land Abuse and Recovery (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 231, 236, 534 footnote #17.
3 4

Water systems are the largest single category user of electricity in the world, accounting for between two and ten percent of electricity use in a country. In the U.S., water systems account for about three percent of electricity consumed annually (about 75 billion kWh). About 39% of freshwater use in the U.S. is used for thermal electric energy production. See AWWA Water Loss Control Committee, “Applying Worldwide BMPs in Water Loss Control,” AWWA Journal 95:8 (August 2003), 75 and U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu /wupt.html (accessed 5/1/08). California’s water infrastructure uses electricity to collect, move, and treat water; dispose of wastewater; and power the large pumps that move water throughout the state. California consumers also use electricity to heat, cool, and pressurize the water they use in their homes and businesses. Total water related electrical consumption for the state amounts to ~52,000 Gigawatthours (GWh). Electricity to pump water by the water purveyors in the state amounts to 20,278 GWh, which is approximately 8% of the statewide total annual electrical use. 32,000 GWh represent electricity used on the customer side of the meter, that is, electricity that customers use to move, heat, pressurize, filter, and cool water. See Lon W. House, “Water Supply Related Electricity Demand in California,” Demand Response Research Center (December 2006), 1. See Steven Solomon, Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2010), 381-2, 490.
5

As a unit of account, one sesterces during this period may have been worth as much as $1.50 (U.S.) in today’s purchasing power value.
6 7 8

de Botton, 106, 107.

For a more complete discussion of the economics of sustainable water supply see: http://www.scribd.com/doc/33763270/Economics-of-Sustainable-Water-Supply.
9

In terms of large engineering projects, potentially the most egregious example of faulty economic thinking is in the calculations that support nuclear power plant construction where, from an economic perspective, if all costs of the nuclear plant were figure in the investment decision, the nuclear plant would be shown never to produce a positive net present value (NPV). See http://www.scribd.com/doc/15750142/.
10

See http://www.scribd.com/doc/33936683/.

Lyle Brecht DRAFT 1.4 -- Tuesday, July 6, 2010

APPLIED ECOLOGY RESEARCH

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