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Water from the Gulf of Mexico
Can Green the Great American Desert

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The transformation of the Great American Desert, a huge area running through seven states of the Western United States and down into Mexico, into a thriving area with adequate water, power, and transportation infrastructure, was the subject of a major study produced by EIR in May of this year. The study, which had been commissioned by Presidential pre-candidate Lyndon LaRouche, featured a number of water projects, including two by American engineer Hal Cooper, which would carry water from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great American Desert.

In the first project, Cooper calls for building a canal that would run from the extreme north of the PLHIGON, to Monterrey, and from there to Saltillo, Torreon and into the southern part of the state of Chihuahua, where it would connect to the Conchos River, a tributary of the Rio Grande. The most challenging stretch of the project would be to raise the water from Monterrey to Saltillo, a difference of about 1,050 meters. There is no way around pumping the water up, although you could possibly build some tunnels under the highest parts of the Eastern Sierra Madre.

The relative disadvantage of building tunnels is that they require significant capital investment, more than what is required for the construction of canals and pumping stations alone. But pumping, on the other hand, has continuous operating costs associated with it, which is not the case when a tunnel is built that can save on the difference in heights. These factors have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Using the Gulf of Mexico

Cooper's second project to bring water from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great American Desert, is to build a canal starting at the Gulf of Mexico near Corpus Christi, Texas, which would then run more or less parallel to the border with Mexico, crossing the states of New Mexico and Arizona, and reaching the California coast near Los Angeles. Cooper points out that an existing, but unused oil pipeline that runs from Victorville in southern California, to McCamey in west Texas, could be used. In this project, the water would also have to be lifted to a height of about 1,600 meters above sea level, which is the lowest pass that exists through the Rocky Mountains in that region, at Paisano Pass in Texas. The use of tunnels through the mountains would probably be very advantageous in this project.

But in Cooper's plan, where would the fresh water come from, to carry to the Great American Desert? From the desalination of sea water on the coast, as well as from water retrieved from saline aquifers along the proposed route.

Although there have been increased efficiencies achieved in desalination over recent years, making it an increasingly discussed option for arid lands, the most efficient power source to drive desalination plants is nuclear power. One leading type of reactor is a modular High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor (HTGR), capable of producing 350 megawatts. One "island" of four modular HTGR reactors could produce a total of 1,400 megawatts of power. This level of power, when transmitted to a multi-stage flash distillation desalination plant, would generate about 145 million cubic meters of fresh water per year. It would also generate, above that, 446 megawatts of net electrical output.

If one were to place, initially, 20 such nuclear islands in our selected seven-state region, each hooked up to water desalination plants, this would generate about 2.9 km3 of new fresh water per year. As of 1996, the total U.S. desalination capacity—including both nuclear and non-nuclear techniques—was only about 1 km3 per year. By way of comparison, Saudi Arabia, the world leader in desalination capacity, had over 2.1 km3 per year.

Water—and Energy

The 2.9 km3 that 20 nuclear complexes would produce equals 2.3% of the fresh water that is annually withdrawn by the seven-state region—a significant amount. If twice that number of nuclear islands were constructed, then one would be "manufacturing" about 5.8 km3 of new, fresh water every year—almost as much as the Frias plan would be moving through inter-basin transfer.

Moreover, the development of nuclear technology is absolutely vital on the energy front as well (as we note below), and brings with it the desired non-linear effects that come from introducing the most advanced fields of science and technology—the "geometric" changes discussed by Vernadsky and others.

Cooper suggests that one such nuclear desalination complex could be built adjacent to the Permian Basin in Texas-New Mexico, which today produces significant oil and natural gas, but also brings up, in the extraction process, a large amount of saline water. That water could be desalinated, and used. Other plants could be located on Texas's Gulf Coast; at the Rio Grande; and so forth along the proposed route of the new aqueduct. Similar nuclear desalinating plants should be constructed in Mexico, along the coastal routes of the PLHINO and the PLHIGON, as well as along the proposed route of the aqueduct carrying water into the Mexican highlands.

The full proposal for the development of the Great American Desert can be found on LaRouche's campaign website, and in the EIR (Executive Intelligence Review) magazine.

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