The National Aqueduct

The National Aqueduct is the cornerstone of Scarcity Zero's ability to solve resource scarcity and store energy generated by renewable power on a nationwide scale. In concept, it’s a nationwide array of modular, above-ground pipelines and storage facilities designed to transport billions of gallons of desalinated seawater to any location in the country. Intended to be built alongside our interstate highway and high-tension power line networks, it serves four vital roles:

  1. Solve drought and water scarcity anywhere in the nation.
  2. Operate as a fourth energy source alongside renewable cities, Small Modular Reactors and Cogeneration Facilities.
  3. Serve as a nationwide storage medium for renewable energy.
  4. Provide endless, sustainable volumes of water.
  • National Aqueduct Overview:

    National Aqueduct overview

  • National Aqueduct Pipelines:

    National Aqueduct Pipelines

  • National Aqueduct Storage:

    National Aqueduct Storage

As an integral part of the framework that ties every other technology behind Scarcity Zero together, the National Aqueduct leverages three methods to generate electricity as a dynamic, decentralized power plant on a massive scale. They include solar panels on top of pipelines, hydroelectric turbines within pipelines themselves, and thermoelectric generators by virtue of water being stored throughout the National Aqueduct at a comparatively high temperature (190°F / 88°C).
  • Pipelines Integrated With Renewables:

    Water pipelines integrated with renewables and solar panels

  • Diagram of Hydrodynamic Turbine:

    Water panels integrated with hydrodynamic turbines

  • Diagram of Hydrodynamic Pipeline:

    Diagram of hydrodynamic water pipeline

The nature of this deployment enables the National Aqueduct to deliver fresh water to any corner of our nation on demand and generate electricity every single step of the way - regardless of climate or season. Further, because the National Aqueduct would store a large volume of water (on the order of hundreds of billions of gallons), the high specific heat of water[1] enables this system to function as a nationwide battery - the world's largest by far[2] - both through thermoelectric charge and in-pipeline water flow.

In localized regions, National Aqueduct pipelines are ideally deployed within prior-existing roads and rail networks. As shown by the following concepts, pipeline arrays (as well as modular wind turbines) can pair easily with municipal transportation infrastructure:

  • National Aqueduct Near City:

    National Aqueduct Near City

  • National Aqueduct Near City:

    National Aqueduct Near City V1

Yet on a nationwide scale, the key to making this approach possible is the pre-cleared and publicly owned land of our interstate highway networks and high tension power lines. The three images below respectively show maps of our interstate highway system, high-tension power line networks, and, for comparison, oil pipelines:
  • Map of Interstate Highway System:

    Map of interstate highway system

  • Map of National High-tension Power Lines:

    Map of nationwide high tension power lines

  • Map of National Oil Pipelines:

    Map of national oil pipeline arrays

From these maps, we see that not only do we already have the open space to build a system on the scale of the National Aqueduct at no additional land cost, we see further that we've already built similar systems - at higher costs and difficulties than we would face with fresh water. If we can build tens of thousands of miles of pipelines for oil that nearly always come with expensive land purchases and daunting environmental considerations, leveraging pre-cleared public land to run prefabricated water pipelines is a significantly easier task.

Further, because this space is either publicly owned or leased with the ability to grant easements for municipal use, this means such a network could be constructed with minimal site processing and removes the need to purchase additional private land - allowing cost factors to be constrained to materials, installation and operation.

With pipeline arrays installed parallel to highways, power lines and oil pipelines, strategically located storage and control facilities keep The National Aqueduct constantly resupplied with fresh desalinated water. This allows the network to deliver water based on demand through a "constant staging" approach:

  • National Aqueduct Staging Function:

    National Aqueduct Staging Function

  • National Aqueduct Storage:

    National Aqueduct Storage

  • Desalinated Water to Aqueduct:

    National Aqueduct Production

In this deployment, production (Cogeneration Facilities) transmit water to the system’s storage component where it is held in large tanks, sterilized via UV and kept at high temperature through daytime solar, hydroelectric charge and/or supplemental integration with wind turbines. In addition to the 24/7 charge generated by hydrodynamic turbines, the additional elements of thermoelectric charge and daytime solar can combine to create a potent source of reliable power generation.

To see what this looks like in practice, let us assume that on a nationwide scale the National Aqueduct would hold 500 billion gallons of desalinated water. At 90 °C (195 °F), a gallon of water holds 1,707 joules (~1,618 BTU) of potential energy. A volume of 500 billion gallons would therefore hold ~853 trillion joules (809 trillion BTU). This is equivalent to 237 billion kilowatt-hours, approximately 1/16th of the United States’ annual electricity consumption. That is from heat energy alone – saying nothing of daytime solar charge or constant charge generated from pipeline-equipped turbines. While it is of course not feasible to convert the entirety of that heat to electricity without significant reductions due to entropic forces and natural system inefficiencies, it remains a vast volume of potential energy.

These functions enable The National Aqueduct to not only transport fresh water where necessary, but also to complement and support the other power-generating methods of the Scarcity Zero framework. Because fresh water in this model would be delivered to every major population and agricultural center in the United States, it presents massive implications for both our economy and our environment:

  • It would make the concept of drought irrelevant. With limited exceptions, all irrigation, agriculture and industrial water use today is deeply dependent on natural water cycles – a reality our world is becoming increasingly aware of as we overexploit Earth’s fresh water supplies. By desalinating and transporting water on a nationwide scale, we have an effectively infinite supply of fresh water for social use.
  • It allows natural freshwater supplies to stabilize. Because fresh water could be sourced from The National Aqueduct in large volumes, it reduces stress on natural water supplies. Over time, this would provide a net positive benefit for our natural environment.
  • It enables irrigation (and agriculture) in any location. The United States has a centralized farming model where agriculture is based in large swaths of our interior. Food is then harvested, processed and exported as a large-scale commercial enterprise. The National Aqueduct would make these ventures more fruitful and less expensive. Yet it would also do the same for effectively any location in the country – including locations where it has traditionally been challenging to farm.

Because of its decentralized nature as both a resource-delivering and power-generating system, the National Aqueduct can serve as a resilient secondary electric grid, providing yet another potent source of power while also solving drought, water scarcity and renewable energy storage needs. It's a one-two-three-four punch that can be leveraged further to grow food indoors within vertical urban farms, as well as enable the agriculture of specialized organisms that can make the base chemicals to manufacture next-generation materials.