Yesterday, to demonstrate a point–water is heavy and it takes a lot of energy to move it–I walked with a cubic foot of water on my back up Marin Avenue, a well-known hill here in Berkeley. A cubic foot of water is 62.4 pounds. To get it into a relatively manageable state–water has a mind of its own and is the ultimate shape-shifter when you try to confine it–I poured a couple gallons of water into several reasonably leak-proof plastic bags, double-bagged those bags, then put the bags into a single-compartment backpack. In the event, I had some leakage, but I’m pretty confident from weighing things out the gross mass of what I was hauling was pretty close to 62 pounds.
I chose Marin and a single cubic foot of water as a humble analog for a famous section of California’s State Water Project. Down below Bakersfield, the SWP has a facility called the Edmonston Pumping Plant. It’s job: Move water that’s been pumped uphill from the San Joaquin Valley up and over the Tehachapi Mountains. “Move water” is a bit of an understatement. Edmonston’s big lift blasts water from a battery of 14 pumps up 1,920 feet, over the top of the Tehachapis, through several miles of underground pipelines. It’s a waterfall in reverse–4,450 cubic feet per second, 2 million gallons a minute–made to defy gravity. Once it’s over the top, the water flows into a network of aqueducts and reservoirs for mostly residential customers throughout Southern California.
So, my single cubic foot of water, going up 650 vertical feet over three-quarters of a linear mile in about 20 minutes–my power output was probably several hundred watts (I’m trying to work out a calculation, but so far I don’t believe what I see). In human terms, I was breathing hard and sweating freely before I was halfway up. I wonder if those Edmonston pumps, which each operate at 60 million watts, ever get tired.
Anyway: Above is a little bit of what the effort looked like, shot with my iPhone as I headed up Marin; below is “the top”: