Question: Water in the Desert

04Nov07

I am thinking about the western U.S. drying up, and I wonder whether it would help to pump massive amounts of ocean water into a large natural or artificial basin somewhere in Nevada.  This would obviously not be the more authentically natural move, at least not in the sense of leaving things as we found them; then again, if it counteracted our abuse of fresh water sources, maybe it would be authentically natural enough.

The purpose of this pumping effort would be to create an inland sea from which water could evaporate in such quantities as to provoke rainstorms further east.  And that’s my question, or questions.  Lake-effect rain and snow works on the lee side of the Great Lakes.  I am guessing that the Great Salt Lake may be the source of some of the snow on the Wasatch Range.  Do Lake Tahoe and Salton Sea not feed moisture into the atmosphere, or are they just not big enough to make a noticeable difference downwind?  (Or maybe they do, and I just haven’t heard about it.)  How big a salt lake would it take to produce a green streak eastwards?  Could the power of the ocean waves drive a pump that would shove water up over the Sierra Nevada, or would they have to build a power plant to feed enough water to stay ahead of the rates of evaporation and seepage into the ground?  Would the seeping water carry its salt with it, and if so, how far?  Presumably the salt left behind would create a salt flat when/if the salt lake ultimately dried up; would this then create a permanent lifeless zone?  Could they build a glass lid over the lake, so as to trap evaporating water into tanks for pumping or shipping elsewhere in the West?  If they went in the greenhouse direction, could they design the lake as a massive irrigated space, with troughs that would capture the salt and a forest of leafy plants between the troughs, so as to create some sort of tropical ecosystem?

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One Response to “Question: Water in the Desert”

  1. 1 raywoodcock

    I see, from a New York Times article, that this thing of tinkering with the environment for a purpose, such as counteracting global warming, is known as geoengineering.

    The article is at:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/10/science/earth/10geo.html?ex=1352350800&en=ec29a9aad8632622&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss


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