The Instigator
brian_eggleston
Pro (for)
Losing
3 Points
The Contender
bladerunner060
Con (against)
Winning
6 Points

The USFG should help save the planet by flooding Death Valley with sea water

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
bladerunner060
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/28/2012 Category: Science
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 11,687 times Debate No: 28696
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (14)
Votes (2)

 

brian_eggleston

Pro

Death Valley is a huge graben, which is the geological term for a sunken fragment of the Earth's crust. It covers 200-square-miles and is surrounded by mountains. Death Valley is virtually parched of water because it receives less than 2 inches of rain per year, all of which evaporates very quickly in temperatures that can reach as high as 134*F. Death Valley also has the lowest elevation on the American continent at 282ft below sea level.

So how much water do you think it would take to fill Death Valley? Don't worry, I've worked it out for you: it's 9,828,731,802,298 gallons, which is really quite a lot water.

To put that volume in perspective, if that liquid was diesel instead of water, it would be enough fuel to drive a Ford Focus 1.6 Duratorq TDCi 81,572 trillion miles, that's equivalent to 32 billion times round the Earth.

Or put another way, if that liquid was vanilla milk shake from Crown Candy Kitchen in St Louis it would take Adam Richman out of Man v Food 9,828,731,802,298 hours to drink it.

Or think of it like this, if the water was in ice form it would represent a significant proportion Greenland's ice sheet, the melting of which has contributed +8.0 mm to globally-averaged sea level rise since 2002.

But what if a pipe were built from the Pacific Ocean approximately 120 miles to the west,, through the Rockies into Death Valley to fill it with sea water?

The water could be gravity fed into the Death Valley to flood the depression and continually replenish the water that evaporates, and thus lower global sea levels to offset the increase caused by the melting of the Greenland ice sheet.

Not many people live in Death Valley, and most of those who do live there, live in shacks and trailers so it wouldn't take much time, effort or money to relocate them.

Furthermore, once the new inland lake was created resorts could be built around its shores to provide accommodation, watersports facilities and entertainment for tourists attracted to the area by the guaranteed sunshine and the cool, calm waters.

In conclusion, flooding Death Valley would be relatively cheap and simple and would provide valuable employment and attract visitors from around the world but, most of all, it would help save the planet by lowering global sea levels.

Vote Pro. Thank you.

Death Valley Map: http://maps.google.co.uk...

Death Valley National Park Guide: http://travel.nationalgeographic.co.uk...

Geology of Death Valley: http://geology.com...

Ford Focus Fuel Efficiency Statistics: http://www.ford.co.uk...

TV's Man v Food Programme: http://www.travelchannel.com...

St Louis" Crown Candy Kitchen: http://crowncandykitchen.net...

Greenland Ice Sheet Data: http://www.arctic.noaa.gov...
bladerunner060

Con

I'll begin by thanking my opponent for this opportunity to debate.

I also generally concede his facts and figures as posted (except for a bit of quibble about the Greenland melting figure), as well as state that Man v. Food is fun to watch!

Now, on to the substance and rebuttal:

In the first place, my opponent has offered no evidence of analysis as to the effects of the creation of the inland lake on the ecosystem surrounding it. I know of no studies, so I would posit that that is unknown, but due to the size of the lake we would be creating I think it is reasonable to assume that there would be SOME kind of noticeable effect. While I cannot make a point as to what that effect might be, I believe I can make the point that we should not go "willy-nilly" modifying ecosystems without such an analysis, and so therefore until such an analysis is performed and verified (as much as any analyses may be verified), the point must go to Con.

While, as my opponent notes, "Not many people live in Death Valley", some of those that do are the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe. I must ask whether my opponent is advocating their forced removal, since they are unlikely to agree to the loss of land they only recently received back from the USFG. I posit that alone contradicts the point that "it wouldn't take much time, effort or money to relocate them." [1]

My opponent tries to put the volume of water in perspective. It is a lot of water! However, compared to the ocean, it is a proverbial "drop in the bucket". There are 346,049,000,000,000,000,000 gallons of water in the ocean [2]. Death Valley holds, according to my opponents figures, 9,828,731,802,298. That is .0000028% of the ocean (according to Wolfram Alpha). It takes 9137 km" to raise the seas 1 inch [3], and (thanks again Wolfram Alpha!) 9137 km" is equal to 2.414*10^15 gallons, 9,828,731,802,298 gallons is around 40% of that, and therefore of 1 inch of seawater...which menas you'll get less than half an inch of lowered oceans from the plan, and that's a one-time reduction in sea levels. The water that evaporates simply re-enters the water cycle wherever it goes, so that half inch is the only seal level benefit.

"Furthermore, once the new inland lake was created resorts could be built around its shores to provide accommodation, watersports facilities and entertainment for tourists attracted to the area by the guaranteed sunshine and the cool, calm waters."

Sunshine could no longer be guaranteed, as the results of such a major change have yet to be predicted. Ditto for "cool, calm waters".

"In conclusion, flooding Death Valley would be relatively cheap and simple and would provide valuable employment and attract visitors from around the world but, most of all, it would help save the planet by lowering global sea levels."

My opponent has offered no statistics on the cost of the pipelining to get the water to Death Valley, so "relatively cheap" cannot be supported by the argument. Taken only to talk about the movement of the people out of the valley, I think I have established it will not be as easy as my opponent assumes. While the "employment and...visitors" may be a benefit, our lcak of knowledge of the effects on the creation of the lake, combined with the un-established assumption that the real estate would definitely be developed, make this second conclusion point unsupportable. And, as noted, the "lowering global sea levels" would not help the planet in any meaningful way. Therefore, the Pro position must be rejected.

Vote Con. Thank you.

[1] -- http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2] -- http://wiki.answers.com...
[3] -- http://boards.straightdope.com...
[4] -- I didn't directly cite, but thanks to Wolfram Alpha for calculating the large numbers. Any errors in calculation are undoubtedly my own.
Debate Round No. 1
brian_eggleston

Pro

I should like to thank bladerunner060 for accepting this debate and for posting such an eloquent and informed response.

Regarding my opponent's environmental concerns, while no study has been conducted on the ecological impact of flooding Death Valley, some 100 miles to the West of the site, the construction of the Hoover Dam in 1936 created a vast inland lake containing 9,123,839,000,000 galloons of water, almost exactly the same amount of water that it would take to fill Death Valley, with no ill-effects on the environment.

Moving on, my opponent correctly pointed out that a tribe of red Indians called the Timbisha Shoshone lives on the floor of Death Valley. Given its inhospitable, barren nature, Death Valley seems an odd choice to base a settlement but it wasn"t really the tribe"s idea, it all came about in 1863 through the Treaty of Ruby Valley. The transcript of the meeting has been lost but I would imagine it went something like this:

USFG Representative: Howdy, Big Chief Te-Moak! I've come to agree a peace treaty between our two peoples.

Big Chief Te-moak: Oh yeah, so what's in um peace treaty for us then, pale-face?

USFG Representative: Well, your lands extend from Southern California, through Nevada, Utah and into Idaho and we want to drive you out and settle it with white folks instead but, in exchange for your co-operation, we'll stop massacring you and we'll even throw in a 40 acre plot on the floor of a valley for you and your people to live on, although you won't actually receive the land until the year 2000.

Big Chief Te-moak: Well, I suppose that's fair enough, I think too many of my people have become victims of your murderous thunder-sticks. I agree to the deal, just so long as that plot of land is not in um Death Valley, of course, ha-ha-ha!

USFG Representative: ...

Big Chief Te-moak: it's um Death Valley, isn't it?

USFG Representative: That's right, redskin, now sign here. Yee-ha!

So, if Death Valley were flooded and the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe were relocated elsewhere, I doubt they would have any complaints.

It is, of course true, that flooding Death Valley will not, in itself, completely mitigate the rise in sea levels caused by global warming but it would be a step in the right direction. Furthermore, it would set a good example for other nations that have land depressions close to the sea, such as Ethiopia / Eritrea / Djibouti (The Afar Depression), Egypt (The Qattara Depression) and Western Sahara / Morocco (The Sebjet Tah Depression).

I agree that the water that evaporates from Death Valley Lake would enter the water cycle and, eventually, find its way back to the sea but, in the meantime, it would be trapped in clouds and, when the clouds' moisture is precipitated, in soil and porous rocks.

While I am on this subject, the clouds that form over Death Valley Lake are likely to be blown away by the wind, possibly brining valuable rain to other dry and dusty parts of Southern United States.

The cost of this project would be around $430 million, based on the price of similar long-distance water pipeline projects, of which there are dozens planned or under construction in the United States: not an insignificant amount of money, of course, but not a huge amount in the grand scheme of things.

So, for the sake of bringing valuable employment to a neglected and impoverished part of Nevada; for the sake of bringing tourist-dollars into the area; for the sake of the local red Indians and, most of all, to help save the planet: Death Valley should be flooded.

Vote Pro. Thank you.

Sources:
----------
Location of Hoover Dam: http://maps.google.co.uk...
The history of the Timbisha Shoshone tribe of red Indians: http://timbisha.org...
List of land depressions worldwide: http://geology.com...
US water projects: http://www.nrdc.org...
Texas water pipeline cost: http://www.caller.com...
bladerunner060

Con

This has been quite an interesting debate, and I would like to thank my opponent for initiating it. I had never thought this much about the subject before!

Now on to rebuttals:

"...the Hoover Dam in 1936 created a vast inland lake ... with no ill-effects on the environment."

"The changes in water flow and use caused by Hoover Dam's construction and operation have had a large impact on the Colorado River Delta.[99] The construction of the dam has been credited as causing the decline of this estuarine ecosystem...The Colorado River had experienced natural flooding before the construction of the Hoover Dam. The dam eliminated the natural flooding, which imperiled many species adapted to the flooding, including both plants and animals.[102] The construction of the dam devastated the populations of native fish in the river downstream from the dam.[103] Four species of fish native to the Colorado River, the Bonytail chub, Colorado pikeminnow, Humpback chub, and Razorback sucker, are currently listed as endangered."[1]

"...Death Valley seems an odd choice to base a settlement but it wasn"t really the tribe"s idea..."

The Timbishas have been there quite a long time, though their lands were once more extensive: "Death Valley is home to the Timbisha tribe of Native Americans, formerly known as the Panamint Shoshone, who have inhabited the valley for at least the past 1000 years." [2] I do not believe that they would be as easy to move as Pro proposes.

"It is, of course true, that flooding Death Valley will not, in itself, completely mitigate the rise in sea levels caused by global warming but it would be a step in the right direction. Furthermore, it would set a good example for other nations that have land depressions close to the sea, such as Ethiopia / Eritrea / Djibouti (The Afar Depression), Egypt (The Qattara Depression) and Western Sahara / Morocco (The Sebjet Tah Depression)."

I refer back to my point (which I corrected in the comments to the actual value, as I misplaced a decimal in the Round) that filling the entirety of Death Valley would lower sea levels by less than the thickness of a dollar bill. Even if all of the places Pro suggested did get filled with seawater (an unlikely proposition), the effect on sea levels would be negligible.

"The cost of this project would be around $430 million,"

I'm not sure how that number was produced.

First, while I mostly conceded Pro's points before, I must now say that I actually checked the distance from Death Valley to the Ocean on the map, and found the absolute shortest distance to be around 150 miles, which is different than the 120 my opponent suggested as the "approximate" distance. However, that figure does not account for the multiple mountain ranges that must be bored through or gone over.

I think that a more accurate estimate of necessary pipeline length is at least 200 miles (For the record, while I technically had conceded the "distance" point, I did on the basis of it being approximate; and besides, I'm just as technically quibbling now about the fact that "necessary pipeline length" hadn't been established)

Using the sources you provided (the last two in your list), I computed a very different series of possible estimates:

The link to the Texas project says their 40-mile project could "cost the city $142.5 million and raise water rates for customers.", you're talking about 5 times that, which would make it (if the two pipelines directly correlated, ) $712.5 Million. The article mentions 35,000 acre feet per year. AFY is part of the cost of any pipeline (a tiny pipe is cheaper to make longer than a big pipe), so I do not believe these projects correlate.

[3]

The PDF source lists the following projects:

Table B. Projects in the Pipeline
Delivery Volume
Transbasin Project Cost
Length (mi)

Flaming Gorge Pipeline, WY and CO

250,000 $6 BB 500

Lake Powell Pipeline Project, AZ and UT
100,000 $1.064 BB 158

Yampa River Pumpback, CO
300,000 $3.2 BB to Front Range 250
$3.9 BB to Denver

Gallup-Navajo Pipeline Project, NM
35,893 $864 MM 260

Narrows Project
5,400 $40.3 MM 16.8

[4]

300,000 acre feet per year (9.77554286 " 10^10 gallons, according to Google) is not quite 1% of the total volume of Death Valley, which seems to make it a reasonable amount to use (if anything a low estimate of evaporation). Cost seems to correlate to both distance and AFY for these projects. The "Yampa River Pumpback" seems to be the closest example, which had a mileage quite close to the straight line mileage from DV to the ocean, and a <1% total lake volume replacement per year. The cost, as can be seen, for that project is $3.2-3.9 Billion. Even if we assume a much lower volume of transport, and look at the Lake Powell Pipeline Project, that is over a Billion dollars for 158 miles, which is closer to Pro's original number, but still quote short of what I believe is the more reasonable estimate.

Billions of dollars are a significant amount of money.

"...for the sake of bringing valuable employment to a neglected and impoverished part of Nevada;"
A possibility, but by no means a certainty

"...for the sake of bringing tourist-dollars into the area;"
Ditto

"...for the sake of the local red Indians..."
No real benefit has been posited for the local Native American tribe, so I'm not sure how it would be for their "sake". Also, (not to seem like a concern troll) I believe "red Indian" is considered an offensive term.

"...most of all, to help save the planet: Death Valley should be flooded."

Again, I don't think you've established how it would help save the planet.

In conclusion, I believe that Pro has failed to provide proof of any substantive benefits to flooding Death Valley, and has significantly underestimated the cost. Vote Con.

Thanks!

[1] -- http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2] -- http://en.wikipedia.org...
Following sources originally provided by Pro:
[3] -- http://www.caller.com...
[4] -- http://www.nrdc.org...
Debate Round No. 2
14 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Rhyous 1 week ago
Rhyous
How is it that the Great Salt Lake was not brought up? Instead you used the Dead Sea, a sea on the other side of the world, as an example, when a closer one is just next door. The Great Salt Lake is salt water. It is not below sea level, which might sound like a huge difference until you realize that the Great Salt Lake is a basin, and the water has nowhere to go. It is far saltier than the ocean.

Also, how is the evaporation rate of the Great Salt Lake not brought into this argument? How does its watersports compare to other lakes?

Let's look at some items here because both Pro and Con arguments are huge failures without discussing this lake.

Great Salt Lake
- Salinity (% of salt) = 5 to 27% salt. See (3.5%)
- Water sports - almost none, though there is some sailing.
- Evaporation - the great salt lake is one of the number one reasons from the snowpack in the Wasatch Front.
- Drying up - The Great Salt Lake was at a 167 year low in 2014.

Now, as for some of the arguments. Filling Death Valley might only result in a 1/2 difference of ocean water initially. But I believe there is evidence that the the amount of ground water, snow pack and glacier levels could get a huge boost, to number well above 10 (maybe as much as 50) times the amount of water needed to fill death valley. So after 50 years, it is expected that filling death valley could make a 2 foot difference when all the ground water, snowpacks and glacier sizes are considered.

Also, why are we only talking about a pipe. What about a river or tunnel. If ships could ride these rivers, we could now improve inland shipping greatly.

Also, a large enough river could keep the salt content the same as the oceans. Also two river/tunnels could be built, one on each end of Death Valley, connecting to the ocean, we could easily create a water flow that keeps the salt levels the same as in the ocean.

So many important points were completely ignored in this debate. You both lose.
Posted by RedPlanet 1 year ago
RedPlanet
I'm late to the show, but, a few observations.
1) The Rockies are east of Death Valley --no need to take the road less traveled.
2) We suspect hat the removal of groundwater can rupture fault zones. The adding of roughly 10 trillion pounds to the Garlock fault zone may be problematic.
3) Death Valley already has salt water and salt flats so pressure desalinization and the pumping in of desalinized water may not give you a fresh water lake.
4) Hopefully the calculations were made not on the volume of Death Valley but the volume from the bottom of Badwater to sea level (roughly 280 ft).
5) I forgot what 5 was.
Posted by soulg 1 year ago
soulg
We could use the pressure to desalinate the water! "The principal competing processes use membranes to desalinate, principally applying reverse osmosis technology.[7] Membrane processes use semipermeable membranes and pressure to separate salts from water." (wikipedia). Southern California is in a very serious drought right now. This could bring millions of gallons of fresh water forever to the State. Also according to wikipedia death valley is 3000 square miles, much larger than you indicated. You can e-mail me soulg1969 gmail
Posted by soulg 1 year ago
soulg
We could use the pressure to desalinate the water! "The principal competing processes use membranes to desalinate, principally applying reverse osmosis technology.[7] Membrane processes use semipermeable membranes and pressure to separate salts from water." (wikipedia). Southern California is in a very serious drought right now. This could bring millions of gallons of fresh water forever to the State. Also according to wikipedia death valley is 3000 square miles, much larger than you indicated. You can e-mail me soulg1969 gmail
Posted by race4d 2 years ago
race4d
I apologize for the repeated posts, however since I am proposing different topics and ideas (and the post length is limited), I'd like to add to the debate with a question that I hope some people can provide input on.

First of all, it seems it was never really figured out the actual level of sea level drop. It seems the variant estimation was between 0.1mm and 0.5mm -- So let me change the premise and priority of the goals of the proposed project:
Goal 1: Evaporate as much water as possible to create cloud cover (reducing infrared energy reaching the earth) and creating rain in the desert areas in the path of the wind stream to refill both above and below ground water aquifers in the rain path.
Goal 2: Provide long reaching highly evaporative mesh of canals to expand out to create agricultural support to higher elevations.

First of all, from what I can tell in the debate, a total amount of water was figured out that would be displaced from the ocean was thought to be a fixed amount of 9.8 trillion. But take into account my differently listed priorities. What if the largest goal was to evaporate as much water as possible? There are lots of methods for this, from Nuclear desalination turning as much as possible to steam -- to -- building the water pathways as long low depth canals, in other words, creating as much low depth surface area as possible - resulting in much hotter water that evaporates quicker. Since the wind heads mostly east (sometimes a little northeast or southeast http://theweatherwiz.com...) and as I stated before, very little to none of this water would make it back to the ocean, the 9.8 trillion gallon number should not be considered fixed. Among many options for increasing the surface area (thus increasing the evaporation rate):

WHAT IF you could evaporate 2-3 trillion gallons a year? WHAT IF that means you could actually continuously reduce the ocean level. Even by a conservative amount of 0.05mm / yr?
Posted by race4d 2 years ago
race4d
An addition to one of my previously mentioned posts, if you didn't want to flood death valley with salt water from the ocean, could you not pump (the pumping would be limited since after the mountain ranges it goes down hill and could actually generate hydro-power; Could you build a large scale nuclear power plant that would provide power to California and neighboring states (even export to Mexico) that desalinated the water before pumping it into the basin? The separated salt could be resold, and excess could be simply pumped back into the ocean.
Please see the following links on using Nuclear energy for desalination https://www.google.com...
-- having the water be desalinated and potable could help supply the west which as we know has been dry as a bone lately. Back to my point in my previous post, it could also be used to turn VAST areas of (the cooler areas away from DV) into farm land and via long stretches of canals actually help to refill aquifers that we humans have been depleting for a hundred+ years. Couldn't some of this fresh water be pumped into some of the major fresh water resevors that feed populated land?

In the debate one person said it may not really lower sea levels because it may come back down as rain that makes it back into the ocean. I tend to disagree, if the evaporation turns into clouds and heads east - that water is going to head into the ground and rivers that never make it back into the ocean. Keep in mind with raising Co2 levels, trees and plants require less water and nutrients to grow. As we continue to raise our levels of Co2, does it not make it more feasible to create vast farms in areas that this fresh water could supply to grow crops? https://www.google.com...
Posted by race4d 2 years ago
race4d
Hello, I've been theorizing on this for about 10 years now. Setting aside the costs of the project, which even at a billion really isn't that big of a deal when it comes to the federal budget for infrastructure projects. To be honest, a billion dollars may be well worth it for the scientific research alone --- The question and some points I'd like answered..

1. How much cloud cover would the evaporation cause? Would this added cloud cover help to reflect some of the sun's energy back into space thus very mildly cooling the planet?
2. With wind patterns typically flowing north/south/east from Death Valley's location, the evaporative clouds would eventually come back down as rain replenishing ground water supplies in areas where agriculture and human population is using up fresh water supplies.
3. Could desalination systems be designed that would feed water to major markets like Las Vegas (approximately 105 miles from DV. Las Vegas has an incredible thirst for water and is very willing to pay for it.
4. Could Death Valley be turned into a giant fishery? With the heat of the water, and transplanting the most logical salt water sea plants, along with the best potential ocean life (fish), couldn't a very nutrient rich sea be created that would cause massive amounts of fish to be able to be grown and harvested -- creating a food source industry that would help offset the costs or even eventually make it profitable?
5. Could desalinated water be pumped or driven by canals to areas that were not quite so hot -- in other words, compatible for agriculture -- to water these crops, again creating a form of income?
6. I cannot find any information suggesting that death valley is a heavily prone earthquake zone, even if so, that does not in any way make it dangerous for a modern safe nuclear power station that could both aid in providing massive amounts of desalinated water, but also act as a plentiful source of water for the reactor. This energy could be sold back into
Posted by pendant 2 years ago
pendant
I came here while searching for information on flooding such places as the Qattara Depression, and the Dead Sea.

I'm very surprised that in this debate there was no mention of the possibility of taking advantage of the height difference to generate hydroelectric power from the water flow. This would help offset the (admittedly considerable) construction cost at today's prices -- and in the long run, given that peak crude oil was reached globally in 2006 and homo fatuus brutus is in dire need of alternative energy generation sources, such projects are pretty much a no-brainer.

(@RoyLatham I envy you your land holdings in this area, and those of the other incumbents.)
Posted by brian_eggleston 4 years ago
brian_eggleston
Thanks for your comments Roy, I am intrigued about the land you own near Death Valley, what do you do with it? Too small and arid to farm, I suppose?
Posted by RoyLatham 4 years ago
RoyLatham
I like the boldness of the idea. Since Californians are now blowing up perfectly good dams that provide valuable fresh water so that Native Americans can revert to traditional salmon fishing, doing anything bold is unlikely.

The "make a sea" idea is not as unlikely as it seems. Around 1900 a massive flood of the Colorado River created the Salton Sea below sea level in Southern California. It immediately became a resort area with all that was claimed for a Death Valley sea. It's been evaporating for over a hundred years and is now so salty and polluted as to kill off the fish, but it covers 381 sq mi. and is up to 50 feet deep. Building 16-foot diameter pipelines to the Pacific Ocean has been proposed to flush out the lake, but it's too expensive. Water must flow in any out to keep the Sea from stagnating.

Through unusual circumstances I happened to acquire 20 acres in the town of Shoshone, just outside Death Valley. I searched the web and found a resident of Shoshone who wrote, "This place is not hell, but you can see it from here." I larger visited the town, and it is pretty run down, but has a certain western-movie-set sort of charm.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Kinesis 4 years ago
Kinesis
brian_egglestonbladerunner060Tied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Informed, interesting debate - more than I thought it would be. The crucial point in Con's favour was that the water would just evaporate and enter the water cycle again, making the whole enterprise pretty pointless in the first place.
Vote Placed by utahjoker 4 years ago
utahjoker
brian_egglestonbladerunner060Tied
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Total points awarded:33 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro was able to answer all of con's arguments and questions but con had better conduct and sources