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January 19, 2009

A national sprinkler system?

Each year the government spends billions on saving lives and property damage due to the spring thaw, which causes floods along the banks of our major rivers and tributaries. This grief, expense and loss of life could be abated if we put the Army Corp of Engineers to work designing and constructing holding ponds, aquifers and a pipe line system that could transport excess water to areas of the U.S. that need it.

Imagine a sprinkler system, much like the ones we have in our yards, only on a national scale. Water to wet areas of the country could be controlled, and dry areas supplemented. Droughts and floods could become a thing of the past.

The benefits of such a program would be enormous in terms of stimulating the economy, saving FEMA billions annually, putting people to work and enhancing our infrastructure long term.

Think about it. A national sprinkler system for the U.S. makes sense. Talk about going “green.” The whole country would look like a garden.

If we can pump oil and natural gas to every corner of our country, a national sprinkler system that puts water where we need it shouldn’t be that difficult.

Paul Styers




You're thinking of the High Plains Aquifer. A part of it was once called the Ogalala aquifer and you may have heard it by that name.


Good evening Girl Power,

I am impressed that Paul's letter turned into such a deep conversation, thanks to you.

What do you think of my zoysa idea?


GP, where would all the water come from? The Colorado River? Lake Mead? And what the name of the aquifer under the center band of the country? That one is being depleted faster than it's being replenished, isn't it?

It's been awhile since we studied this in my hort program, but I remember a lot of political wrangling over water out west, because of supply more than the cost of moving it. Correct me if I'm wrong. I'm such a water conservation freak, you would laugh at me if you saw me at the kitchen sink. And when it comes to the garden, if it needs to be babied, it doesn't get planted here.

Stifled Freedom

Ohhhh, here is bone for you moralists out there....no pun intended.

The legal brothels of Nevada exist because rural Nevada has almost no source of outside revenue. No industry, no agriculture, no minerals. So if we could turn those deserts into agricultural production, you could argue that the legal brothels are no longer necessary to suppor the local economy.

Wow, that would be worth it right there. No cost is too great to justify imposing your moral standards onto someone else's lifestyle.

Stifled Freedom

I guess if you stop dreaming, you might as well be dead.

As an engineer, in the water treatment industry, I understand his dream and how beneficial it would be. The western half of the US is arid. That land is essentially useless to us. Our agriculture production could more than double if we could water and harvest crops from the the vast deserts of the west.

In engineering, the numbers dont lie. It would be interesting to attempt to quantify the benefits vs. the cost of such an enterprise in a formal study. It might surprise you. What if Nevada grew enough switch grass to provide all the ethanol we needed for energy. Would it be worth considering then? Perhaps. I'll be energy independence would get a lot of political mileage.

However, it would take more than unprecedented capital costs to establish the infrastructure. It would take tremendous amounts of energy to move water from the lower elevations of the east over the mountains to the west. We are talking about lifting millions of acre feet of water by thousands of feet in elevation and pumping vast distances which imparts tremendous friction losses of water flowing through a pipeline. The daily energy costs would be staggering and would have to be offset by great benefits.

I also dont think Mr. Styers understands the volume of water involved or required. It is much larger in volume than the oil or gas we transport.

We have facilities in place to capture excess water and hold it for dry times....reserviors. At this time, no new reserviors are being built by the Corp of Engineers because of the outrage over environmental impacts. They have not built new reserviors in 20 years. In fact, many dams in the west are being removed.

Rampart Reservior just outside Colorado Springs recieves water from west of the continential divide. The Otero Pump Station, designed locally, pumps water from the west to this reservior on the east side through a tunnel through the mountains. It is the primary water source for Colorado Springs. Additionally, the hydraulic head of the water coming down to the city's water plant is run through a hydroelectric turbine to generate electricity. On a small scale, this is already being done.


Grass should be left alone to wither and brown, think about the waste just to make your home "purty".

Or plant zoysa.

Your great grandkids will put the lack of and high cost of water in the same category as their paying for the Iraq war, and they'll curse you for it.


I shudder at the thought of a national sprinkler system. Nothing would waste more water, and like so many residential and commercial sprinkler systems, it would be a maintenance nightmare.

The sprinkler systems you (not me) have in your yards are part of the problem, not part of the solution. Now stop watering your driveway and the street, and for heaven's sake, stop watering your lawn every day. Now repeat after me: Water very early in the day, DEEPLY and INFREQUENTLY.


Maybe it's a joke? A long winded, waste of my time, unfunny joke. But a joke nonetheless.


Agreed. There are so many problems with this letter, there's no good place to start.



Stupid letter. What do you think happens to spring thaw now? Scientist and any third grader will tell you there is not an unlimited supply of water in the US of A, nor is there an unlimited supply of tax money to pay for such a crazy idea.

My advice is no pizza before going to bed and you won't dream up stuff like this.

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