The Great Basin is the largest area of connected watersheds with no outlet to the ocean in North America. It spans nearly all of Nevada, much of Utah, and portions of California, Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming, and Baja California. Its basin includes a range of topography that varies from the North American lowest point at Badwater Basin in Death Valley to the highest point of the contiguous United States, less than 100 miles (160 km) away at the summit of Mount Whitney. Within the Great Basin are many small basins such as: Great Salt Lake, Pyramid Lake, Salton Sink and Humboldt Sink.
Evaporated moisture from the ocean is carried by the onshore breezes. The moist air is driven upslope towards the peak, where it expands, cools, and its moisture drops to the ground. Most of the humidity will be lost to rain or snow before the wind passes over the mountain range. This casts a broad “shadow” of dry climate region behind the mountain ridges. This moisture deficit encourages deserts to form.
It is all about the rain shadow. Basically, the Great Basin is a 209,162-square-mile (541,730 km2) desert created by the rain shadow effect. The Cascade Range to the north, the California Coastal Ranges to the west, and the Sierra Nevada Range to the south provide a significant rain-shadow which has created this moisture deficit condition. Currently the problems in the region include the mega-drought and the associated shrinking Great Salt Lake. Also problematic is the diminished flow of the Colorado, Green, Rio Grande, and Snake Rivers. If the Great Basin could be converted to a moisture positive area, the benefit would be huge. Benefits would be delivered first to the basin itself, but then they would have side benefits to all adjacent areas.
Is It impossible To Thwart A Rain Shadow?
If we could flatten out the mountains the rain shadow would go away and the whole of the Great Basin would become moist and fertile. But it is obvious that the rain shadow cannot be removed. The mountains cannot be flattened. But there is another method. Moisture can be added to the basin via mechanical means, by pipes and pumps.
Pipes And Pumps
By moving the water with pipes and pumps we can rehydrate the Great Basin. this is a huge project with a multi-step process, and for brevity this page will address some of the major tasks which must be accomplished to make this occur. This is the most grandiose Move the Water! proposal for the USA where Global Warming can be impacted, and reversal initiated. Not all possible steps can be included in this page, and there are alternate options for every step.
The Benefits Are Immense.
Bringing water to a desert is bringing life to the desert. Where there is life, there are possibilities. The grandiose statement of return on investment is that by rehydrating the Great Basin a broken water cycle will be mended. Mending this water cycle will break the mega-drought, refill the Great Salt Lake, return full flow to the Colorado, Green, Rio Grande and Snake rivers. This will assure availability of water to the billions of people who depend on the rivers for their life and livelihood. The local Climate Change caused by overdrawing water from the Colorado River will be reversed reducing Global Warming in the southwest USA.
The water cycle, also known as the hydrologic cycle or the hydrological cycle, is a cycle that describes the continuous movement of water on, above and below the surface of the Earth. The water moves from one reservoir to another, such as from river to ocean, or from the ocean to the atmosphere, by the physical processes of evaporation, transpiration, condensation, precipitation, infiltration, surface runoff, and subsurface flow. In doing so, the water goes through different forms: liquid, solid and vapor. The ocean plays a key role in the water cycle as it is the source of 86% of global evaporation.
Once we add moisture to the Great Basin, it will recirculate via the hydrologic cycle throughout the whole of the Great Basin. With the water comes localized cooling and plant growth. Some of that water will exit the Great Basin toward the headwaters of the Colorado, Green, Rio Grande, and Snake Rivers, which all originate in the mountains of Colorado. These rivers will regain their full flow which will provide much needed water drinking, farming and industry, as well as for the fauna and flora of the regions. The cooler environment which will accompany this moisture will combat Climate Change by reducing local Global Warming reduction benefits. On the grand scale, there is no downside. Imagine the below video to be the Great Basin. It can be this way; we just need to add water.
Where there is water, there is life By Afrika24 Reisen
The Downside … Change Brings Change.
Change always brings disruption of status quo and unintended consequences, but for the greater global good, these must be endured. The problems are inundation of dry places with standing water, which may render some land unusable for farming or habitation. But standing water is the goal of this initiative and is essential to provide large water surface area for evaporation.
How to Accept Change Is Inevitable by marty wilson
The Downside … People Live There.
The counter argument is that few people live in the areas which will be submerged. The areas are hot dry deserts. The people who must be relocated can be moved to water’s edge properties, which are usually considered to be more valuable than raw desert land.
The Downside … Farmland Will Be Flooded.
The farmland in a desert is only valuable if irrigation water is available. The good news is that new areas of agriculture will be established. Once water is brought into the desert, and fills the depression, the hydrologic cycle will take over and fresh water will be created via rain, mist and snow, reducing the requirement for irrigation. This is the benefit which will make the change valuable to the farmers. The desert can become fertile and green with addition of water, and some wise land management. The below video gives one option.
From the Ground Up – ‘Regenerative Agriculture’ by festival21
The Downside … Flash Floods.
Rain in desert is associated with flash floods. These will occur and must be endured, but they will naturally diminish as plants cover the ground and impede the unimpeded water runoff. China has done amazing things to stem rapid water runoff from a landscape, and those techniques could be used in the Great Basin (see video near end of article: Regreening the desert with John D. Liu). The below video is aimed at a suburban community, but the information is excellent.
Wetlands Help Prevent Flooding
As the rain increases in the Great Basin, people will work to slow the flow of the rain, which will benefit the environment much. They will engineer wetlands which can contain a lot of moisture and reduce the potential for flash flooding.
Death Valley will become a terminal hypersaline lake.
The Downside … Terminal Water Will Get Salty.
Yes, it will get salty in the terminal lake basin in Death Valley. That is expected and not as much trouble as one thinks. The land which will be initially flooded is already salted from the body of water which previously occupied that location and evaporated. If this is a major problem, recirculation paths for the water can be established to eliminate Death Valley Basin as a terminal pool, but the cost is expected to be such as to discourage such a project.
How to Rehydrate the Great Basin?
This is a multi-stepped process with the end goal of creating a salt sea in Death Valley where the bulk of the evaporation will initially occur.
Rehydrate Great Basin … Step One.
Bring sea water from Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) into Laguna Salada, Mexico via the Coyote Canal. The below video demonstrates the waterway as envisioned by Agess Inc as one option in moving water to Laguna Salada. The option proposed by Agess Inc seems to be one of the less expensive options and it seems to return many benefits.
Binational Restoration of Laguna Salada & Salton Sea by Agess, Inc
Rehydrate Great Basin … Step Two.
Bring the sea water from Laguna Salada into the Salton Sea via an extension of the Coyote Canal. This is easily accomplished (easily is a relative term, but it is much easier than the construction of the Colorado River Aqueduct, which is a 242 mi (389 km) water conveyance which crosses the Rocky Mountains delivering water from the Colorado River to Los Angeles CA. The extension of the Coyote Canal needs to be a metered flow to preclude overfill of the Salton Sea. The above video also includes visualization of the extended Coyote Canal. The below video is a video discussion of an alternative idea for filling the Salton Sea with water.
The Salton Sea Solution by stocktondan.
Rehydrate Great Basin … (optional) Step Three.
Install a drain in the Salton Sea. One of the problems identified by StocktonDan is the increasing salinity of the Salton Sea caused by continued evaporation. There are quite a few options presented to mitigate the salt saturation of the Salton Sea being proposed by many people. The solution that I present here is to drain the Salton Sea, but only after steps one and two above have been completed. The below video shows how a drain/valve can be installed in the base of a lake so the water can be drained out like that of a bathtub.
Lake Mead Intake Hydraulic Tunnel, Las Vegas by Salini Impregilo, but a surface level drain is much less expensive.
Rehydrate Great Basin … Step Four.
Step #4 is the construction of pipes with pumps to transport Salton Sea water into Death Valley. This is an expensive project, but the costs can be funded by fees on water diverted from the Colorado River. Those who have been diverting water from the Colorado River have been doing so at no charge for decades. They have been misappropriating the natural resource and have caused damage to the climate as a result. Now is the time to begin charging a fee for Colorado River water. That fee can be used to fund the repair of the hydrologic cycle which they broke.
By pumping water into the Great Basin, the water cycle will be repaired. The Great Basin is an arid desert as a result of the Rain Shadow effect. Adding moisture into the Great Basin will cancel out the effect of the natural rain shadow and encourage the Great Basin to bloom. The additional moisture pumped into the Great Basin will circulate within the Great Basin and eventually make its way to the north and east sides of the Great Basin where some of it will migrate out and stock the snowpacks which create the water for the Colorado, Green, and Snake rivers. With the snowpacks once again full, the flow of the Colorado River will return to its former glory. The hydrologic cycle will have been repaired and the billions of people who rely on that water will be saved and secure for decades to come.
Rehydrate Great Basin … Step Five.
Let the water flow. I expect that it will take much more than the full flow of one 15’ diameter pipe to fill Death Valley with water. If no other input is developed, I doubt that a large lake will form. There will be a balance point where daily evaporation will equal the pipe’s input. Filling Death Valley with water is the subject a paper by Chuan C. Chang: Creating Death Valley Lake His paper suggests multiple intakes with outtakes to keep the salinity to a balanced level. He expects that the land along the new inland sea and along the canals could be sold to individuals and the profit form the land sales would fund the project. Filling Death Valley with water is also the subject of the two videos below.
The Little-Pacific Project by Tribute Flight
Fill Death Valley with Ocean Water by thebillo313
We Have Water in Death Valley, Now What?
Now The Fun Begins. No further direct human action is required. What has been accomplished by moving the water there is the most important part. The hydrologic processes do the rest. Let’s review what will occur through natural hydrologic processes.
Water Evaporated and Returns
Water will evaporate from the surface of the newly formed Death Valley Sea. The water will be taken into the air for redistribution in mostly within the Great Basin with smaller amounts passing over the rim and entering the surrounding states. What water is removed will be replaced via the open water path. The evaporated water returned to the Great Basin in the form of dew on the ground in mornings, in the form of rain, and in the form of snow on the tops of the mountains. This returned water is cleaned water, suitable for drinking, for watering plants and irrigating crops.
Plants will grow when they have an ongoing supply of moisture. The plants retain water in their structure, they are made up of approximately 90% water, water which is not immediately returned to the ocean but retained as long as the plant lives. The plants clean the air of CO2. They return breathable O2 into the air and use the Carbon as building block for the plant structures, Carbon that will be held in the plant (sequestered) while it lives and be integrated into the soil as the plant eventually decomposes. Plants are natural air conditioners. As water evaporates from plant leaves; the air is cooled. Below is a video about how one desert plant, a moss, collects water from airborne humidity.
PLANT WATER RELATIONS by 7activestudio
Ground Water Collects
As plants shade the ground, the ground temperature is lowered, which allows the water to percolate into the ground, and be held there waiting for use. The soul will become moist and some underground aquifers will be refilled; again, slowing the water’s return to the ocean.
Water Movement in Soil by NRCS NSSC
Given enough time the hydrologic action should re-hydrate the entire Great Basin region. This could generate the natural refilling of several dry depressions within the Great Basin, including the Great Salt Lake. Just by keeping the waterways open allowing the Death Valley inland sea to remain full, these areas could be returned to a healthy fertile area, growing food for many people. The plants and the ground retain water, so the ocean levels are lower. The environment in these very hot places is cooled, which will cool the entire globe.
Videos About Greening Deserts
Get some water into the Great Basin, and then the entire landscape can be terraformed by natural processes, and/or with some human intervention, the Great Basin can become a really nice lush place.
Regreening the desert with John D. Liu
How Peter Andrews rejuvenates drought-struck land by ABC News
Rainwater Catchment for Reforestation & Increased Production by Vida Verde Finca, Vilcabamba
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