Friday, February 7, 2014

A Reason For Pipe Dreams

While Sochi, Russia may be a computer hacker's paradise, and many of its venues appear nowhere near ready for the crush of people already arriving from around the world, the 2014 Olympics has already begun in Russia, for better or worse.

For many years now, the Olympics have given our staff members a collective mix of both hope and sorrow. On the negative side, it's true that the Olympics in Sochi are the most expensive in history, cost over $50 billion, and were way over budget. Folks tend to forget though, that London's Olympics in 2012 were also over budget, as most Olympic events always are.

The history of cost overruns and ill-prepared host venues often gives rise to an idea around the beginning of each Olympic games, of a permanent home, or possible multiple rotating permanent homes around the world. As the editors of Bloomberg News noted, this year's games haven't been exempted from that idea reappearing.

Regardless of the problems with the Olympic games, there is a positive side to them as well. The Olympics almost always give people from all over the world a reason to stop, pause, and come together over a common unifying topic - kind of like the bad weather has done this winter for people across America.

From the record warm winter weather in Alaska, to the severe drought in the Western U.S., to the massive snowfall in the northeast, most of America has been talking about the same subject for a couple months now: The weather.

Frankly, if it was up to us, we'd be more than happy to share some of the snow we've had near our DC offices with friends of ours that live in California. We've even known people to toss around the idea of massive water pipelines criss-crossing the country, to take the excess moisture from those that don't need it, to those that don't have it.

As far as pipelines go, if some labor unions - like the AFL-CIO - want to get behind a pipeline idea that won't further endanger the environment, California's Gov. Jerry Brown has the perfect project for them.

Gov. Brown and other California officials are proposing two massive pipelines to carry water from Northern California to Southern California, and through the desperately dry Central Valley region of the Golden State. While the ideas currently being proposed are a bit farfetched, we see no reason that pipelines couldn't be connected directly to the ocean, run through desalinization plants, and then pumped inland to where the water is truly needed.

One member of our staff has thought for years now a massive pipeline, or even a man-made river should be built along the border between Texas and Mexico. A project like that could carry water from the Gulf of Mexico, along the Eastern edge of the Rockies, all the way up into Nebraska and the Dakotas. It would not only alleviate the perpetual drought problem in places like West Texas and the Oklahoma panhandle. It would also allow farmers and businesses to stop draining the Ogallala Aquifer nearly dry in some places, and make the breadbasket of the nation viable as a place to live long into the future, even with the effects of climate change.

We realize such ideas are - quite literally - pipe dreams. From a permanent sustainable, truly safe and open home for the Olympics, to a nationwide American water pipeline network, the chances of either major idea happening anytime soon are highly unlikely.

Like the games themselves though, both ideas give us hope. In the end, that may be the most redeeming perpetual feature of the Olympics.