Image of the major subbasins of the Mississippi, Colorado, and Columbia Basins from USGS.
The Times reported that this information was "leaked out in advance of [the final report's] expected release this week"- kind of a strange "leak" to claim because the Missouri River option has been on Reclamation's publicly available list of options for solving the not-so-surprising demand-supply imbalance since at least May 2012. In fact, this concept is 2nd on the list of 160 ideas - importing water from the Snake River Basin is listed 1st. The article also notes that this is not a new idea, considered most recently in 2006.
In addition to the Mississippi and Columbia River pipelines, the draft Study lists several other importation options, including towing icebergs, but it is possible that these won't make their way into the final report for further study. Nonetheless, in spite of the catchy headlines, proposals to pipe water over long distances to supplement the Colorado River aren't news anymore, at least not new news (can old news still be news?).
However, a positive outcome of this somewhat irrelevant publicity would be an honest assessment of what additional water would be used for and at what cost. This conversation is critically important, not just for Arizona, but for all of the Colorado River basin states. The consequences of implementing any water supply augmentation plan need to be considered in terms of not only economics, but also in terms of where and how the water would be used. For example:
- The article says an additional 600,000 AF/year of water in the basin could provide for 1 million single family homes. Will this supply be used to plug a supply gap or will it double the population living in eastern Colorado? Which outcome is desirable?
- Would the cost (billions of dollars) be shared by all uses - people, industry, and agriculture? Or would only a subset of users, or new users have to pay?
17 Dec 2012: Corrected post (changed from "people" to "single family homes")