California Wants to Send Water Uphill Through Its State Aqueduct

Gravity being what it is, water tends to flow downhill—but engineers in California are trying to reverse that process in order to counter the effects of the state's current drought.

Associated Press reports that the state is planning to use diesel-powered pumps to send water back up a section of the 420-mile aqueduct in order to water fields. It's a complex engineering problem that could cost between $1.5 to $9.5 million, but, as AP puts it, it's "worth it to keep grapevines, pistachios and pomegranate trees alive." Speaking to the news agency, Geoff Shaw, an engineer with the state Department of Water Resources,explained:

"There is no place on planet Earth where an aqueduct is designed to go backwards. But they have a need for water in a place where they can't fulfill it, and this is their plan to fix it."

The proposed solution would see engineers pump water into the emergency underground water stores in Kern County, a couple of hours north of LA, which would then be used to raise levels in a small, closed section of the aqueduct. From there, pumps would push the water over locks to get it back upstream, to where farmers need it to water their crops.

The proposal—currently being reviewed by state officials and engineers—could see up to 30,000 acre-feet of water being sent up a 33-mile stretch of the aqueduct, between Bakersfield and Kettleman City. An acre-foot, by the way, is (perhaps unsurprisingly) enough water to cover an acre to a depth of one foot.

Water has once flowed up the state aqueduct before—but that was back in 1983 when heavy rainfalls required pumps to be used in order to keep the system from flooding. Now, if the project gets the go ahead, it could happen for quite the opposite reason. [AP via Verge]

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