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Solution to solve California drought? Some say it's water from the Mississippi

A letter sent to the Desert Sun in Palm Springs posed the idea to siphon water from the Mississippi River. Now, the idea has taken on a life of its own.

MINNESOTA, USA — Much of California is in a severe drought.

In Riverside County, where Palm Springs is, leaders say they're dealing with the fourth-driest season in 128 years.

And starting this month, people who live there will be charged a pretty big penalty if they use too much water.

So, why are we talking about this in Minnesota?

Well, some of those people have their eyes on our 10,000 lakes — and the Mississippi River.

Is our water the solution to their drought? It might sound unrealistic, but there could actually be some reason to it.

Frederick Melo recently wrote an in-depth article about these interesting ideas being floated around in Palm Springs.

"Letters have been coming into the Desert Sun in Palm Springs, kind of a small daily newspaper,” Melo explains.

“The first letter came out in June and that kind of started all of this. It came from a resident of Las Vegas who said, you know, 'Wouldn't it be great if we just diverted some water from the Mississippi River through canals and aqueducts, send it over to the Colorado River and basically start irrigating the Southwest?"

Melo says that first letter to the Desert Sun drew in 75,000 hits to its website, which isn't bad for a paper with a circulation of 20,000 to 50,000 copies.

But then other letters came in with similar ideas and it snowballed from there.

"In July, they had a letter that got picked up by Google Feed that had 475,000 hits,” Melo says. "There is a lot of enthusiasm on that letters page. And it's been going from June into July with folks thinking about different ways with railroad, canals.”

But not everyone is on board with the idea, especially Minnesotans. Many of them have also sent letters back to the newspaper down in Palm Springs.

"There are a lot of snowbirds in that area and some of them are like, ‘You can't have our water; never have our water.’ There's practical reasons, but there's also this general territorial sense that this is ours, hands off," Melo says.

It's not the first time an idea like this has come up.

Melo says a few years ago a company in Lakeville had plans to do this on a very big scale.

"They had drawn up a request for a permit to do about 500 million gallons a year to the southwest. They were actually going to take it by railroad,” Melo says.

But it never happened.

And according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), it may never happen.

In a statement, the agency says siphoning water would have negative impacts, and Minnesota does not inherently have an overabundance of water.

Case in point: last year's drought that affected most of the state.

Plus, Melo says per state law, the DNR can't issue a permit to send more than a million gallons of water further than 50 miles.

So, contrary to what some in Palm Springs might think, the water here in Minnesota is here to stay — at least for the foreseeable future.

"We have farms; we have waterways with endangered species that have to be maintained. We have all kinds of issues here that we need to be aware of,” Melo says.

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