Israel first expressed interest in Medusa bag transport and a pre-feasibility study of the supply of Ashkelon from the Manavgat River in Turkey (200 million cubic meters per year (MCMY), 360 nautical miles (Nmi)) was conducted by Tahal, – the Israeli State Water Engineering Company. They concluded this was the best way for Israel to improve its water situation but Gadhafi forced Turkey not to contract a supply. Turkey nonetheless spent $100M building a system to capture water from the Manavgat and transport it to a buoy offshore. Israel then said it could not trust Turkey and decided not to proceed with the technology.
A potential project is to supply Haifa from Turkey (325 Nmi) where any water quantity equal to that put into the Israeli National Water Carrier could be released from the Sea of Galilee into the Jordan River to supply Jordan. Another potential project is to supply Gaza from Turkey (100 MCMY, 360 Nmi)
Egypt considered supplying the Sinai with water from Turkey at El Arish (500 MCMY, 365 Nmi). The Egyptian hydrological department studied the “soil” in the Sinai and concluded that 50% of it could be usefully fertile if there was water. There is also a significant potential to supply the desert west of Alexandria subject to a similar soil study. For example, Marsa Matruh is 380 Nmi from the Manavgat River.
Using the Medusa style of bag, Nordic Water got a contract to supply northern (Turkish) Cyprus from the Bozyazi River in Turkey. This ran for some 5 years with bags of 35,000 CM.
When Australia was in its drought of the early 2000’s, scoping studies were done for the projects Tasmania to Melbourne (200 MCMY, 175 Nmi), Tasmania to Sydney (400 MCMY, 530 Nmi) and Broome to Perth (200 MCMY, 1200 Nmi).
A similar study was done for Norway to London (400 MCMY, 460 Nmi).
Studies have also been done to supply towns and mines in the Atacama Desert from southern Chile. An example project: 60 MCMY, 975 Nmi.
Some projects under consideration are Congo River to Namibia (1000 Nmi), to west S. Africa (1,500 Nmi) and to west Africa (1000 Nmi). Nouakchott in Mauritania (the Sahara desert) is an interesting target because the height the water would have to be lifted from the sea to service a large area is modest. Distance from the Congo 2,500 Nmi and from the Amazon 2,300 Nmi. To meet the water needs of these poorer countries, UN/World Bank financing will be needed.
The current focus is to supply San Francisco from the Columbia River with up to 5 MAFY, distance 550 Nmi. This amount is our best estimate at what is required to arrest the past 50-year on-going decline of groundwater of about 2 MAFY and to recharge groundwater basins the historic deficit of 75 MAF over 25 years so 3 MAFY. With the groundwater and the reservoirs charged up with a constant fresh water supply of 5 MAFY, the State could tough out a long drought. Groundwater is the essential fallback source for farmers in the Central Valley when surface water (rain water and snow melt) is scarce due to drought conditions
The 5 MAFY draw from the Columbia River represents only 3.7% of total annual river flow. Water from the lower Columbia can meet municipal standards with conventional water treatment plants, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
A recent scoping study of this project has proved encouraging. A pre-feasibility study is still pending. The water requirement is much larger than anything previously considered and significant development will be required.
The bags will be the largest man-made objects ever to move. 5 MAFY is 6,200 million tonnes per year. This is 40% more than all the crude oil consumed in the world today (90 million barrels/day), and three times what is moved globally by supertankers. So obviously our intention is very ambitious but if we don’t look into it, we will never know what volume could be practically supplied.
Our estimated cost of delivering freshwater is about $400 to 600/AF. The State recently proposed to implement water efficiency measures with costs up to $1200/AF and storage measures by enlarging reservoirs with costs of about $1,700 to $2,700/AF*. Desalination costs are in the range of $1,900 -over $3,000/AF*. Carlsbad has been contracted at $2100/AF. ( *estimates from Stanford Woods Institute)
The development process will span several years
- the pre-feasibility study.
- prototype construction and analysis.
- planning and execution of a first modest-sized project.
- planning and execution of the first Columbia River project.
- full volume should be achieved in the 2020-2025 time-frame, which can be shortened subject to urgency and funding.
Funding for the pre-feasibility study is currently being sought.
Who would manage the project?
It could be a state project, either managed by California (like the State Water Project) or the US Bureau of Reclamation (who run the Central Valley Project which supplies agricultural needs). Alternatively, it could be a large private utility which would charge a tariff to cover the costs approved by the local Public Utilities Board. The transportation operations would be by a commercial tug company on a long-term contract.
No entity would be buying and selling water to make a profit. The water remains in the public domain.
The success of the California project will open the door to other large international projects mentioned above, e.g. the Congo River, to bring water to potentially fertile regions with currently insufficient water. The aim is to offset the decline of agricultural production in conventional areas negatively affected by global warming.