ST. LOUIS (AP) — Even as drought-stricken Midwestern states squabble over diminishing water supplies in the region, a new federal-state study raises the idea of constructing a 670-mile pipeline to divert water from one of the Mississippi's major tributaries to help seven arid states in the West.
For two years, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming have been considering ways to provide more water for the growing populations in the West. A plan scheduled for release later this month will include a proposal for a pipeline to ship water west from the Missouri River, along with a number of less ambitious options.
The pipeline proposal, which would cost an estimated $11.2 billion and take 30 years to complete, is expected to intensify the debate over how to ease one growing region's shortages without harming the interests of others.
Dan DuBray, spokesman for the Bureau of Reclamation, said the pipeline idea is a long way from reality at this point.
“The idea of constructing conveyances to move water resources between other basins and the Colorado has been raised before and was once again submitted as an idea in this process,” DuBray said. “Any proposal will be evaluated for feasibility, broad support and realistic funding potential before further consideration would be given.”
Any plan for diverting significant amounts of water from the Missouri would encounter opposition from some in the Midwest, given the drought and competition for water resources.
Some conservation organizations argue that future water demand in the West should be met with conservation and policies that increased water reuse. Constructing a major pipeline is “absurd,” said Jason Bane of the Boulder, Colo.-based Western Resource Advocates.
But some Western interests are pressing for more aggressive steps.
Patricia Mulroy, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, said the nation must keep an open mind to a variety of ideas for meeting water needs, including pipelines that could provide a dual benefit: Removing excess water in flood-prone areas and transporting it to areas that have an urgent need for water.
“Maybe it's time for us to look at marrying the concepts of flood control and drought protection,” Mulroy said.
The Missouri River pipeline plan notes that water wouldn't be diverted during droughts. But Bane said that if both the West and Midwest were in drought, water battles would ensue.
The pipeline proposal calls for a large treatment plant near Leavenworth, Kan. The pipeline would run roughly adjacent to Interstate 70, with the flow moved in part by a series of high-capacity pumping stations. It would supply roughly 1.2 million households in the Western states.