Fixing the Economy: a Visionary Suggestion.

Presidents and politicians come and go and leave nothing of substance in their wake.  The latest bandaid solution had to do with repairing roads and bridges and dams, and certainly this is a start.  The infrastructure needs help or it will begin to collapse as did the bridge on I-35.

But is this an example of the vision we really need?

I would suggest a new endeavor.

I noted back in December that the Northeast was buried in snow, and more came in through the winter and increased the snow cover into the middle of the nation.  Inevitably, snow eventually melts and existing rivers can’t handle the runoff.  Floods result.  Remember those?  Remember all the floods every year, as far back as I can remember?  Sometimes they result from winter snow, sometimes from hurricanes that hit cities or states in the Old South, but every year, there are floods.

Meantime, there is drought.  The West inevitably has drought, somewhere.  This year it’s Texas and New Mexico, but count on it; it’ll come, as it has for centuries.  The Dust Bowl didn’t just happen because of poor farming practices; a long-term drought was the underlying cause that poor land management made worse.  The major cities of the West are chronically short of water.  Irrigation is getting more difficult and expensive all the time.  Whatever water is available gets reused over and over, resulting in salt buildup in irrigated lands that are some of the most productive in the nation.

I would argue that we can, and should, do something about this.

Put simply, I suggest we harvest excess water wherever it exists and move it to wherever it will do the most good.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this plan.  It won’t happen immediately, any more than the Interstate Highway system did.  There is a shortage of money to do this, some of the technology would need to be developed, and it would cause some disruption to existing systems.  It would, however, soak up excess labor and begin to put people to work almost immediately.  The process might easily take 20 years or more to complete, and that excess labor would be employed during this time and the economy would be helped.  It would begin to show some benefits within a year or two.  And those people working on the project wouldn’t be unemployed, and they’d start paying taxes back to the system.  Taxes multiply as the money cycles through the various affected economies.  Some of it would go to the federal government, some to states and municipalities.  Seed money would grow.  And the necessary funds could ‘bootstrap’ themselves, using taxes and decreases in social programs to continue funding.  Meantime, we’re already paying in assistance to people whose lives have been damaged by flood or drought or wildfire.

What would the project consist of: I suggest canals and pipelines, with the canals being favored where practical.  Use a system of gates and locks to control water flow.  Canals should link reservoirs in the east with those westward, and either tunnel through highlands or use a system of pumps and pipelines to move water over barriers.  I suggest hybrid wind/solar power for the necessary pump systems.  Eventually, when the process is complete, there would be a need to maintain the system, just as the highway system needs to be maintained now.   That would employ workers.  Canals serve as a transport system as well as a means of moving water and fees for use can help with costs of maintaining the system.  Plus, any material moved by barge or boat is material that isn’t being moved by the railway system or road nets.

This increases economic activity within the nation, and it can’t be exported.  It’s a win-win, in my opinion.

In the early stages, water would be harvested and used immediately; later, excess water might be used to recharge the depleted aquifer system.

Where to build the canals and pipelines?  I’d suggest in the north, at the beginning.  Later systems could be built across the south.  The reason for this is snowfall.  Currently, there’s little to do with snow that falls in the north except to wait for it to melt, and it generally melts all at the same time.  But some of the snow could be dumped into the reservoir/canal system and this could be continued all during the winter, weather conditions permitting.  A steady effort to remove snow, to harvest it in other words, would pay off in lesser flooding later.  A system of feeder ditches along major roadways would allow collecting of snow from roadways and surrounding lands.  We in the west have such systems; we use them to divert water from rivers such as the Rio Grande and the Pecos.  The rivers are often dry in summer, when the irrigation season is in full swing, because all the water is in the ditches.  Ditches can collect water as well as divert it.  Ditch to river or reservoir, canal from the rivers or reservoirs, pipelines where that’s the most practical solution.

My thinking.  Perhaps you might let your politicians know about it?

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