The ominous water circumstances facing the Western U.S. are prompting many to look for other means to accommodate the water needs of the region’s population. As the Colorado River continues to diminish, communities reliant on the river’s water stress conservation, many imposing watering restrictions during periods of extended drought.  Others seek large-scale alternatives because conservation on its own won’t be able to overcome the deficit. In June, retired engineer Don Siefkes, in a letter to the Palm Springs Desert Sun, suggested replenishing the Colorado River system by building an aqueduct that would run from the Mississippi River to Lake Powell 1,489 miles away.

In his letter, he proposes to redirect 250,000 gallons/second to Lake Powell which would refill the lake in 254 days, declaring that southern Louisiana and Mississippi don’t need that much water.  “All it does is cause flooding and massive tax expenditures to repair and strengthen dikes.”[1]  Similar ideas have been examined since the 1940s but have gained more attention in the wake of the 22-year drought currently gripping this part of the country.  Although the concept of a Mississippi pipeline has been deemed “technically feasible” by engineers, the legalities associated with such a massive interstate project would take decades to overcome.  Arguments against such an initiative include the financial, and environmental costs, and the time necessary to complete a such an endeavor.  Furthermore, the benefits of such a project are debatable when it would take resources from one location and give them to another, trading one crisis for another. 

The aqueduct idea highlights the feeling of desperation gripping the west.  The unsustainable water practices throughout the region combined with the triple threat of population, drought and climate change are bringing Lakes Mead and Powell to near-dead pool status.  Although a large-scale response is necessary, the aqueduct likely has too many obstacles to overcome, especially given the time it would take to complete; a response is needed now, not in several decades. The more realistic approach may be to rethink how the water has been allocated and used for the last century, and to create a new plan that accounts for the circumstances currently facing the region.

[1] Wilson, Janet. “Pipe Dream or Possible? Experts Weigh in on Idea of Sending Mississippi River Water to West.” The Desert Sun, Palm Springs Desert Sun, 16 Aug. 2022,