Could trains haul millions of gallons of MN groundwater to the Southwest?

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Could trains haul millions of gallons of MN groundwater to the Southwest?
Posted by MarknLisa on Friday, November 1, 2019 8:11 AM
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Posted by Juniata Man on Friday, November 1, 2019 8:39 AM

I believe the simple answer here is yes but; at what cost?  

And the even larger question is would either UP or BNSF have any interest in business like this.  Seems almost safe to say UP would say no but; BNSF - maybe???

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, November 1, 2019 8:47 AM

The economics of the transaction would drive the reality of it coming to reality or not.

The water can be transported without any significant technological issues.  How much profit is there for the Shipper, how much profit is in it for the carrier(s).  How much can the Consignee afford to pay to come into possession of the water.  Like anything else in the world it comes down to simple economics.  Water costs money, how much do you want (or afford) to pay.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, November 1, 2019 9:02 AM

I think the impact would affect homeowners with wells and local farmers who irrigate, not just the OP's target of hostility. 

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Posted by SD60MAC9500 on Friday, November 1, 2019 9:10 AM

There’s no reason to.. Besides we have plenty of surface water available on the Great Lakes if something like this were to happen.. Don’t hold your breath..

Rahhhhhhhhh!!!!
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Posted by Convicted One on Friday, November 1, 2019 6:20 PM

SD60MAC9500
Besides we have plenty of surface water available on the Great Lakes if something like this were to happen..

Isn't there a pact between all parties having a shore on the Great lakes, that stipulates the maximum amount of water each state or province may pull or divert from the Great Lakes basin?

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Posted by tree68 on Friday, November 1, 2019 6:51 PM

The next question is where are you going to get the cars?

Very few are set up to haul straight water - so whatever cars you do use will have to be thoroughly cleaned, and will also then not be available for whatever they were built for.

Thirty-three cars (at 30,000 gallons per) will hold a million gallons.

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Posted by diningcar on Friday, November 1, 2019 6:55 PM

There is as mutch water on this planet as there ever was, it's not always where the demand is because we, the human race, have made decisions to locate and develope where the water supply is not able to support the life styles we desire.

Therefore those who have chosen to locate where there is not sufficient water must pay to have it made available. In California there is the solution of desalin isation from the Pacific Ocean. For Arizona the solution is more complicated.

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Posted by Backshop on Friday, November 1, 2019 6:56 PM

SD60MAC9500

There’s no reason to.. Besides we have plenty of surface water available on the Great Lakes if something like this were to happen.. Don’t hold your breath..

 

Four out of five Great Lakes prefer Michigan. Smile

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, November 1, 2019 7:27 PM

We were discussing a company with a loop-track facility in the Southwest a few months ago, which had developed a proposal for this sort of water-train service.  Is this the 'origin end' for that proposed service?

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Posted by CShaveRR on Friday, November 1, 2019 7:33 PM

You would probably need fresh equipment, no matter what.  Consider that water is much heavier than ethanol, diesel, crude, or even vegetable oil.  So that knocks the load limit per car down to 25,000 gallons or less.

Why don't they just fill rotary gondolas with snow and dump 'em at their destination at shut-down power plants?  I know the gons have cleanout holes in the bottom, but those could be plugged or lined shut easily enough.

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, November 1, 2019 7:48 PM

CShaveRR
You would probably need fresh equipment, no matter what.  Consider that water is much heavier than ethanol, diesel, crude, or even vegetable oil.  So that knocks the load limit per car down to 25,000 gallons or less

You'd think people thinking about railroad tech would at least remember there was an age when water was routinely carried around in carload lots with high priority ... behind steam locomotives.

You'd use elastomer bladders to introduce a maintainable 'clean surface' lining in whatever prior-service tank cars were used.  I'd probably use one of those antibiotic scams like Microban in the liner even if the water were initially intended in some proportion for industrial use (e.g. fracking).  The bladders could rather easily be configured to minimize slosh even in 'single-compartment' tanks.

Why don't they just fill rotary gondolas with snow and dump 'em at their destination at shut-down power plants?  I know the gons have cleanout holes in the bottom, but those could be plugged or lined shut easily enough.

This is ingenious in its adaptive reuse.  You'd use nanoinsulation in the liners for the inside of the adapted gons, and probably in reflective shielded blankets over the tops of the loads, to keep enough of the 'cold in' for the trip.  The catch is that even in Minnesota water is in the liquid phase much of the year, so you'd need some low-cost 'cold storage' at the origin point, similar in principle to icehouses, where snow could be dumped in winter and then cost-effectively transferred to the trains as demand warranted.

Remember the first law of consulting, however.  And its corollaries...

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Posted by Euclid on Friday, November 1, 2019 8:12 PM

Apparently Minnesota owns the water and they are not going to allow it to be removed as proposed.  I think that was rather predictable in the "State where nothing is allowed."  And if it were allowed to leave Minnesota, I would expect it to face a mountain of regulatory hurdles to enter California, for example.      

 

https://www.twincities.com/2019/11/01/dnr-virtually-no-scenario-for-approving-shipment-of-mn-water-via-rail-to-southwest/

 

California is cracking down on peole who need to haul water in order to live on their rual land. 

https://pacificlegal.org/banning-water-hauling-is-banning-development/

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Posted by CMStPnP on Friday, November 1, 2019 9:20 PM

Convicted One
Isn't there a pact between all parties having a shore on the Great lakes, that stipulates the maximum amount of water each state or province may pull or divert from the Great Lakes basin?

Yes there is a strict agreement with Canada about diversion of Great Lakes water from the Great Lakes watershed.  In my opinion parts of it are stupid such as the part where water cannot be diverted if the Great Lakes water level rises far above normal, where it is at for Lake Michigan now leading to massive shoreline erosion.

Anyways the County to the West of Milwaukee County wanted to draw lake water from Lake Michigan and it was outside of the Lake Michigan watershed.   It wanted to replace it's own city well water with Lake Michigan water (no real reason why other than they are cheap bastards).   The reason given was that their city well was contaminated with Radon (which can be treated out of the water).

They went through a very lengthly application and exemption process and the Canadians insisted that the water be recycled back.    So they can draw water out but they have to pump treated water (from sewage) back into the Lake to replace what they pulled out.   The project of course is going to run well into the millions or tens of millions with pipelines, pump stations and treatment plants but it is apparently cheaper than treating for radon.   Which this county could easily afford as an alternative to taking Lake Michigan water.    They went for the cheaper method first and won approval from the Canadians.

I also think we should charge Canada a per bird tax on Canadian Geese flying into the United States and pooping everywhere.    That is hardly something we should tolerate environmentally as a neighbor but we do.

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Posted by tree68 on Friday, November 1, 2019 9:34 PM

CShaveRR
Why don't they just fill rotary gondolas with snow and dump 'em at their destination at shut-down power plants?  I know the gons have cleanout holes in the bottom, but those could be plugged or lined shut easily enough.

They tried something like that after the Blizzard of '77 in Buffalo.  Of course, the object was to get rid of the snow, not transport water for later re-use.

Unfortunately, the cold snap followed the snow-loaded cars south, so they arrived at their destinations - full of snow.  People were not happy...

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Posted by tree68 on Friday, November 1, 2019 9:43 PM

Speaking of water, central New York has a few billion gallons they'd rather do without.

Most creeks and rivers rapidly reached flood stage after over four inches of rain fell on already saturated ground.

Utica, NY, was particularly hard hit - to the extent that the CSX main at CP235 (east side of Utica) was completely washed out - the tracks were hanging in thin air.  I heard that one locomotive set was stranded in water up to the traction motors.

Crews were running out of time, but the cab drivers couldn't figure out how to get to them.

Many streets were closed in the surrounding area, and I heard a report on a local fire dispatch channel that there was a small house floating down a creek.

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Friday, November 1, 2019 10:41 PM

      There's a big logic hole involved in this plan. They can dig wells in Minnesota and pump the water into train cars. The train then heads for its dry destination. At some point, the trains would have to cross the Missouri River, where they could just throw in a hose and pump out all the needed water.

     In the early 80's a company called Energy Transportation Systems Incorporated was trying to build a coal slurry pipeline. The plan was to use water from the Missouri River in South Dakota to mix with pulverized coal dust to pump through a pipeline to power plants in Arkansas. Boy, did that cause some legal and political battles.

Thanks to Chris / CopCarSS for my avatar.

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Posted by Gramp on Friday, November 1, 2019 11:42 PM

Great Lakes levels are subject to cyclical change. High now, some years ago they were very low. And surprisingly the Great Lakes’ states are a net importer of water. Just because something can be done doesn’t mean it’s wise to do it. We’re slowly getting smarter in our use of natural resources.

And I’m not a tree hugger. 

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Saturday, November 2, 2019 6:50 AM

I've have read amateur proposals in local papers suggesting that the amount of water drawn from Lake Michigan by the Chicago River be increased drastically in order to lower the level of the lake.  Two points are usually made to shoot down these proposals:  The sheer volume of water involved to lower the lake level even only one or two inches; and what happens to levels of the Illinois and lower Mississippi Rivers when all of this extra lake water turns up.

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Posted by petitnj on Saturday, November 2, 2019 7:16 AM

A very reasonable proposal -- provided the price be exactly what we pay at the gas pump. Someone explain the difference between pumping water out of the ground and putting it in tank cars and doing the same for oil! 

 

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Posted by zardoz on Saturday, November 2, 2019 9:37 AM

Convicted One
Isn't there a pact between all parties having a shore on the Great lakes, that stipulates the maximum amount of water each state or province may pull or divert from the Great Lakes basin?

Yes. It's called the Great Lakes Water Pact https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/WaterUse/compact.html

There was quite the controversy around southeast Wisconsin when Foxconn wanted permission to divert 7 million gallons per day for their corporate use. Of course, as usual, dollars overrule decency, and the plan was approved.
https://www.wpr.org/approval-foxconn-great-lakes-water-diversion-upheld

 

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, November 2, 2019 10:33 AM

zardoz
There was quite the controversy around southeast Wisconsin when Foxconn wanted permission to divert 7 million gallons per day for their corporate use. Of course, as usual, dollars overrule decency, and the plan was approved.

When you actually read the story and look at the facts, it's an incredible stretch to say Foxconn asks for '7 million gallons per day' for 'their corporate use'.  Language like that implies they want it immediately for some sort of industrial purpose, which indeed would be a concern under the Great Lakes Water Pact -- but it seems more as if this is mostly for "insurance" in providing domestic water for the anticipated development that will take place 'around' Foxconn, in housing or office space, over the next couple of decades.  It's hard to say whether Racine Water and Wastewater Utilities will actually need most of that 7 million gallons at any time soon, as the story makes Haas sound as if he's talking out of both sides of his mouth at the same time about whether or not the loss of all those industrial customers left his company with 'surplus capacity'.  I also see no breakdown for how much of the anticipated use is estimated to be for space-conditioning purposes, which (if the development is built to modern, say LEED, standards) would likely involve much less water-to-the-drain than older chilled-water systems might 'consume'.  Certainly the coming 'slump' that so many pundits have been predicting for the economy would greatly retard the anticipated buildout of the water-consuming new development...

In the absence of hard data on where Racine Water and Wastewater Utilities actually plans on releasing the treated recovered portion of this water -- most of which, presumptively, will wind up in sewers rather than transpired, running off to bodies of water, or incorporated into products or technical waste.  If there is an objectionable problem with local water conditions in the lake off Foxconn's development region due to the additional 7Mgpd, it occurs to me that a treated-water pipeline might be an acceptable solution (see CMStP&P's prior post).

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Posted by York1 on Saturday, November 2, 2019 10:44 AM

I am unable to read the original article without subscribing.

Does the article identify where the water would specifically go besides saying "southwestern states"?

John  --  Saints Fan  

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Posted by Convicted One on Saturday, November 2, 2019 10:52 AM

CMStPnP
I also think we should charge Canada a per bird tax on Canadian Geese flying into the United States and pooping everywhere.    That is hardly something we should tolerate environmentally as a neighbor but we do.

I think you would likely be surprised with how many of those geese never set a feather in Canada.

The largest of the Canada Geese, the Branta Canadensis Maxima, the ones most likely to be fouling (fowling?) golfcourses and public parks likely all descended from a recovery project conducted in Rochester Mn a few decades ago where the once thought extinct species was discovered holding out, and bred in captivity for re-introduction.  This is a nature recovery success story we should be proud of.

A lot of things in this world bother me, but Canada geese are not one of them.

 

Here is a little clip that I shot in my back yard a couple years ago:

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Posted by Convicted One on Saturday, November 2, 2019 11:12 AM

Water policy in the west, particularly in California, is crazy. I lived for a number of years in the East bay area of San Francisco.  Due to the wonderous efforts of Mr Mulholland in making sure that water was available for Los Angeles, several water sources in the central and northern parts of the state were tapped by his civil engineering marvels. Which led to water rationing in the northern part of the state....restrictions on what days of the week you were allowed to water your lawn, or wash your car....stuff like that.

Then, I moved to Los Angeles  only  to see things such as shopkeepers cleaning off the sidewalks in front of their stores with garden hoses, every morning. No public mindset geared to water conservation whatsoever.

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, November 2, 2019 11:37 AM

Reading the actual story is not very suggestive (they were proposing 3000gpm pumping, which is where the aggregate numbers came from).  What is far more interesting is to follow the paper trail back to "Water Train" in Oregon:

http://www.watertrain.us

I did not think you could do better than the Interstate Traveler Company, but (after a couple of glasses of port to be sure) I think they may actually have done it.  Unit trains of streamlined collapsible bladders running autonomously on maglev ROW, transporting no more than 1/200 of the mighty Mississippi's flow -- a mere pittance, surely! -- to the benighted West.

Evidently they are hedging some of their technical bets by starting small, with more conventional equipment, and it would appear that some of the strategy involves 'distributed sourcing' using a relatively wide range of origin sources ... or at least gaming the permitting 'in parallel' to see who will and who won't allow pumping or water diversion.  It does have to be said that their assessment of 'alternative' (meaning pipeline) costs appears reasonable; they are well aware that desalinization (as I learned the term in my youth) is the practical alternative in places like California.

We could, and perhaps we will, discuss the economics and practical considerations until we have equine aspic to pipe into tank cars.  I do give the guys in Minnesota points for setting up their game early, and for giving us a heads-up on where to go for the 'opportunity' while it's still, relatively at least, on the ground floor for potential investment.

 

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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Saturday, November 2, 2019 11:45 AM

"Water flows uphill towards money." ( https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/814198-cadillac-desert-the-american-west-and-its-disappearing-water )

"Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting." - Mark Twain

From the linked article: "The application indicates that two wells would be drilled to pump up to 500 million gallons of water a year, or about 3,000 gallons per minute . . . ".  Doing the math, I get 500 MGY to be 950 GPM, not the  stated 3,000 GPM.  But even at the 3,000 GPM rate it would take ~8.33 mins. to fill a 25,000 gal tank car, which would be about 7.2 cars per hour, or only 173 cars in 24 hours.  That seems marginal to me, for the all investment required.  By the way, 500MGY is only about 1.37 MGD, which is about 5,480 houses (at 250 GPD, typical water use planning figure), which definitely isn't very many.  No idea of western rates, but at $100/ month = $1,200 per year (high even here on the East Coast - about 1.33 cents per gallon) that would be retail revenue of only $6.576 million a year - nowhere near enough.  Whoever said it should be near the price of gasoline might be closer to the mark.  

Not enough money here to make that water flow out west! 

Also from the linked article: "Fischer said the DNR has confirmed that the venture would work with Water Train, a company currently providing water to municipal and government agencies in Colorado, Utah and Arizona. . . . Empire Building Investments, the real estate arm of Lakeville-based Progressive Rail, submitted an application for a preliminary well assessment to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources this month proposing to build the wells on 6.2 acres the railroad owns north of Randolph." (emphasis added

"In what is believed to be a first for Minnesota, the state has received a request from a small Lakeville railroad company asking what it would take for them to drill two wells in Dakota County and pull out up to 500 million gallons of groundwater a year." 

By the way, groundwater depletion is a major concern in the west, too.  A recent study (last 2 - 3 weeks) by a couple of Arizona water policy experts essentially says that the state's certifications of future availability of groundwater for suburban Phoenix and Tucson communities are essentially 'kited' checks that the state won't be to pay when they come due.  

- PDN. 

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Posted by NP Eddie on Saturday, November 2, 2019 12:08 PM

ALL:

As a retired Class 1 and a resident of Minnesota, I am glad the the MNDNR is stepping up to halt this proposal. As BALT said, the tank cars would need to be throughly cleaned to load non-potable in said cars. Also, would the back and forth movement of water in the cars be a problem for train handling. An ATSF historian can provide information on their transport of water to divisions in "bad" water districts for the steam engines. If my memory serves me correctly, didn't the ATSF dieselize those districts first (both switches and road units)?

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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Saturday, November 2, 2019 12:47 PM

Juniata Man
I believe the simple answer here is yes but; at what cost?  

And the even larger question is would either UP or BNSF have any interest in business like this.  Seems almost safe to say UP would say no but; BNSF - maybe???

Basically a repetitive shuttle train between the same points - seems tailor-made for PSR operations as the Class 1's seem to want it, if the rate can be high enough/ incremental OR low enough to continue that drive.  

Whether the users/ consumers would want to pay that much is another question, as you note.  If I had more time I'd pencil out what 2 cents per ton-mile would work out to from MN to Phoenix by some rail route - maybe someone else could do that? 

Edit: The $100/ month ~$3.33 per day ($1,200 per year) example rate I posted above is more or less afforable for a middle-class household in the Northeastern US.  But I don't think a household in Arizona is going to want to pay 10 times (or a similarly-high multiple) of that . . . 

2nd Edit: A quick Google Maps route from Randolph, MN to Phoenix shows several routes in the range of 1,623 to 1,654 miles.  But none of them look to parallel either BNSF or UP all the way, so I would figure about 1,800+ actual miles.  And 1 of them looks like it could work on BNSF and join the Southwest Chief on the route including La Junta, Colorado through Trinidad, Raton, Las Vegas NM, Albuquerque, etc. to the Southern TransCon.  Wouldn't that be an irony?!?

- PDN. 

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Posted by SD60MAC9500 on Saturday, November 2, 2019 6:13 PM
 

Convicted One

 

 
CMStPnP
I also think we should charge Canada a per bird tax on Canadian Geese flying into the United States and pooping everywhere.    That is hardly something we should tolerate environmentally as a neighbor but we do.

 

I think you would likely be surprised with how many of those geese never set a feather in Canada.

The largest of the Canada Geese, the Branta Canadensis Maxima, the ones most likely to be fouling (fowling?) golfcourses and public parks likely all descended from a recovery project conducted in Rochester Mn a few decades ago where the once thought extinct species was discovered holding out, and bred in captivity for re-introduction.  This is a nature recovery success story we should be proud of.

A lot of things in this world bother me, but Canada geese are not one of them.

 

Here is a little clip that I shot in my back yard a couple years ago:

 

Their true name should be called North American Goose as they populate quite a few areas throughout the year..

 
Rahhhhhhhhh!!!!

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