So far, the Universal Energy framework has given us three of the five critical resources: electricity, water and fuel. But while electricity and fuel can be transported relatively easily, water is a different story. We might be able to produce a lot of water at the coasts, but how do we get it to every location that needs it?
This framework’s proposed answer to that question comes through what it calls the National Aqueduct. As a nationwide array of modular, above-ground pipelines and storage facilities, it is intended to transport billions of gallons of water anywhere in the country. It also has the secondary function of acting as a nationwide battery, which is an important side-feature that we’ll go over next chapter.
Thanks to three technologies and systems we’ve been perfecting for the past 50 years: oil pipelines, high-voltage power lines and interstate highway networks, not only do we have the free space and capabilities to build this system, we’ve already built it for other substances – at higher stakes and at higher difficulties. To elaborate, consider a series of three images. First, if you recall from Chapter 3, we see that our nation has a highway system that connects every area of our country together:
Second, consider a map of nationwide power transmission lines:
Third, consider a map of nationwide fossil fuel pipelines and refinery networks:
From these maps, we can derive two important conclusions:
- Highways and high voltage power lines give us plenty of free space to run water transmission pipelines. As we saw with solar roads, our road networks provide ample open space to install solar panels while removing the requirement to buy land, for roads are generally owned by public services that have exclusive authority to build on them.
Roads and highways also have clearance at each side and are generally flat and straight – a trait shared by high voltage power line networks. This gives us thousands of miles of space to build a National Aqueduct, along with other systems we’ll go over later in this writing. As this space has been pre-cleared of potential obstructions beforehand, construction in these locations has fewer obstacles than others.
- Running water pipelines is feasible. We know that the National Aqueduct will work as described because we’ve already built it for fossil fuels today. We have thousands of miles of oil pipelines that work in the same way as water transmission pipelines, and oil pipes are also built as unique entities and to a far higher environmental standard than with water.
Water pipelines can come factory prefabricated and be designed for rapid, modular construction. Accordingly, environmental risks are similarly reduced as the only substance a leaking water pipeline would spill is fresh water, presenting minimal impact to the environment (if any). This would allow us to build water pipelines at a lower price than with oil pipelines. We can also use the lessons we’ve learned with oil pipelines to get a head start, as the supporting expertise already exists.
Additionally, their close location to power systems (either solar roads, LFTRs, Energy Plants or power lines) gives the National Aqueduct plenty of energy to power sensors, pump stations, purification mechanisms and heating systems to keep water hot. This energy can be used in conjunction with pipeline-mounted solar panels and turbines that generate electricity, which we’ll discuss in the Aqueduct’s battery function next chapter.
These factors make developing a National Aqueduct more straightforward, as much of the work has already been done for us in terms of research and development, engineering and methods of implementation. But to have it fit our needs in full, we’ll need to establish a few requirements for the National Aqueduct, as well as go over the mindset it employs to accomplish its intended goals:
Efficiency, reliability and affordability: Humanity has huge fresh water requirements, many trillions of gallons a year. While Universal Energy is capable of producing that much water, delivering it with any effectiveness must be efficient and inexpensive. A water delivery system must also be reliable, as any given industry or city can’t depend on a water source if its reliability is questionable. Therefore, guaranteed uptime of this system is essential.
Scale of delivery: Whatever system we use to transport water must work over thousands of miles, as water must be delivered from the coasts to areas deep inland. And as we do not live on a flat landscape with consistently warm weather, this system must also be deployable over varied terrain and climates – even cold climates.
Control of operation: A water delivery system must provide control mechanisms that can be engaged locally, as a centralized control structure would be incapable of efficiently managing the water requirements of every agricultural and population center throughout the country. Also, there must be redundancy in transmission, for example, allowing a city in the central United States to receive water from multiple routes in case one becomes incapacitated by some unforeseen event (tornado, earthquake, etc.). This calls for a “smart” system approach that would have sophisticated functions to both monitor and manage how water is distributed from the point of desalination to the final point of consumption.
Modular construction and ease of maintenance: Modularity is an essential component of system design. Modularity provides benefits and cost savings in terms of construction time, standardization, reliability and maintenance. Any system to transport water would have to meet these standards by allowing its components to be installed and/or replaced rapidly by design.
The National Aqueduct would meet all of these requirements by comprising a “smart grid” of above-ground pipelines, storage tanks and pump stations that would transport desalinated fresh water from the coast to any area we wished, on the order of trillions of gallons. These pipelines would feature interior turbines and solar panels that would generate immense electricity, a portion of which would be used to keep the water hot for thermoelectricity at night (hence the battery function we’ll discuss shortly).
And if built, the National Aqueduct would enable us to provide for our national fresh water needs without having to rely on rivers or natural water tables ever again.
Let me say that one more time:
The National Aqueduct would allow us to have unlimited fresh water. And it never again needs to come from the ground, a lake or a river unless we wanted it to.
This would allow us to render moot much if not all of the drought impact we’ve been experiencing as of late, and would also provide circumstances where natural water sources would have time to replenish to the benefit of the environment as a whole.
This system conceptually consists of four primary components: production, transmission, storage and control. We’ll go over each in that order:
Production is comprised of multi-stage flash distillation facilities (ideally as part of a greater Energy Plant) as described last chapter.
The transmission component includes a series of water pipelines and pumping stations contained in modular units of varying capacities. Instead of building single water pipes as unique entities, we could instead install factory-prefabricated pipe assemblies that are designed to couple together (think Legos).
The idea behind this approach is two-fold:
First, this would simplify construction of pipelines over long distances, as each pipe assembly unit would be pre-constructed to a specific standard and designed for straightforward, modular installation.
Second, should the need arise, it provides the ability to rapidly expand transmission capability with minimal overhead and construction costs. These pipelines would be insulated against environmental elements and could drain on demand, and could additionally contain a series of sensors that relay relevant data to the system’s control component (described briefly below). As mentioned previously, these pipelines would also feature solar panels and turbines, but for sake of explanation we’ll set the descriptions of those aside until the next chapter.
Of the sensors within the pipeline, they might report back the quality of water inside each pipe and whether or not it includes the presence of any contaminant (biological or otherwise). Conversely, pipelines could be outfitted with sensors that would alert if they become compromised or were modified without authorization. Since each separate pipe within each pipeline assembly could have its own sensors that connect independently to a control network, water quality could be monitored and analyzed instantly on both local and national levels.
As sensor technology has reached levels of sophistication where sensitivity in parts per billion (PPB) is common, the returned data would be detailed and useful to improving water management. This, among other conclusions from sensor data, could influence a range of actions from the control component of this system to ensure maximum performance, reliability and security.
Storage includes arrays of containment tanks that accumulate water for delivery, acting as the supply reservoir for a region. Rather than transport water directly from production to areas of consumption (as we largely do with electricity), this system would instead use storage tanks as a buffering / staging system, delivering water from there and replenishing from production facilities as necessary.
These arrays of storage tanks could contain millions of gallons of water and could be installed throughout the country to provide water resources to every agricultural and population center that we have, ideally with multiple storage centers redundantly servicing multiple regions. In doing so, the storage component would provide a couple of important functions:
- Staging: it’s difficult to guess how much water a region might use with certainty, as external factors, such as weather, time of year and state of economy all impact how much water is consumed. This would rule out any system that delivers water directly, as maintaining supply and pressure over thousands of miles with inconsistent demand would be a nightmare.
However, used as a staging system, water storage tanks can contain enough water to supply a region for a certain time period (say a week), which equips them to handle unexpected spikes in demand. In turn, water would be supplied through transmission pipelines to maintain consistent levels.
This nods to the concept of constant resupply, which bears special mention in this context. The National Aqueduct would be producing and pumping water 365 days a year. This constant operation is key to meeting our immense water requirements.
For example: a common bathtub faucet has a flow rate of roughly 120 gallons/hour. If that faucet was to never turn off, it would provide 2,880 gallons a day, 86,400 gallons a month and 1.036 million gallons a year – just from your bathtub faucet.
With a water velocity of just 15 miles an hour, a 12” pipe can have a flow rate of 150 gallons per second. That translates to 540,000 gallons an hour, 12.96 million gallons a day, 363 million gallons a month and 3.35 billion gallons a year. And that’s from one 12” pipe. Imagine what an array of nine pipes could do, and imagine that pipeline array multiplied by hundreds. A constantly running pipeline network could easily transport trillions of gallons of water.
- Overflow / active water management. Nodding to the fact that water demand is inconsistent in many areas of the country, there will be times where one region has more water than it needs or needs more water than it has. This requires the system to feature an overflow component.
By design, water storage arrays would only be filled to ~70-80%, which would give them the ability to accept more water from other regions should supply exceed capacity. Should a region deplete more water than anticipated, overflow in one region can be diverted to another on demand. By virtue of this component, the National Aqueduct can maintain consistent uptime and high degrees of reliability.
- Ultraviolet sterilization and filtration. Storing water for weeks on end can lead to circumstances where microbial agents could conceivably be introduced to contaminate the water. To address this, in addition to standard filtration mechanisms the Aqueduct’s storage and transmission component could have a series of UV lights that would shine through stored water. Ultraviolet light, especially in high doses, is lethal to any microbial lifeform (bacterial or viral) with 100% reliability, allowing for long-term water storage without fears of stagnation or outside contamination.
The control component is the brain and nervous system of the National Aqueduct, acting as a decentralized method that allows any region to control the flow of water in its jurisdiction. This would be accomplished through a series of manned stations and control centers at national, regional, state and local levels, which would act similarly to the management functions of any public utility.
In this case, the control component would monitor the system to ensure consistency and stability, and act accordingly if a contaminant, outside tampering or mechanical failure were detected. In the event of a problem, the control component could direct the “smart grid” of transmission pipelines and pumping stations to take action. These actions might range from disabling, draining and isolating a certain pipe from transmission lines, to even bypassing a sector or storage array completely. In the event of a spike in demand or an overabundance of water, as touched on previously, water could be routed from one storage array to another as necessary.
Also useful: the sensor network within the National Aqueduct can provide data to create models that would be greatly beneficial toward ideal operation, and could, for example, predict demand over time. A defining feature of the National Aqueduct is that once enough water has been produced and stored, the production component only needs to resupply what has been consumed, allowing desalination facilities to produce water only as needed. Accurate modeling allows water to be resupplied intelligently, because we will know when water will be used at what levels based on time of year, allowing us to address an anticipated shortage before it occurs.
Combined, the National Aqueduct is Universal Energy’s means to deliver water anywhere in the country, allowing us to live side-by-side with nature without seeing the destructive results of unsustainable water use and natural drought cycles. From here, the secondary component of the system comes into play, and that is its ability to provide the backbone of large-scale solar electricity storage. This writing refers to that feature as the “world’s largest battery” and from here, we’ll explore why.