Water’s never really wasted. It always goes somewhere and does something.
See, for example, the lining of the Coachella Canal, on the northeast side of the Salton Sea:
[L]eakage from the unlined Coachella Canal recharged local aquifers. Wetlands have expanded due to spring discharge below the canal. Wetlands were natural features prior to canal construction, but their areal extent has increased substantially due to leakage from Coachella Canal. Lining of the entire canal was completed in early 2007.
A wetland mitigation project has been developed using artificial recharge to maintain adequate flow at the springs, but artificial recharge will amount to no more than 15 to 20% of the canal leakage that occurred before the canal was lined.
From Use of Environmental Isotopes to Determine Impacts on Wetlands Due to Lining of Irrigation Canals, Salton Sea Area, California, ASCE Conf. Proc. doi:10.1061/41173(414)109 B. J. Hibbs, M. Kelliher, and N. Erdelyi
Yes. And this is what got me over all the furor over Portland flushing 8 million gallons because someone peed in their reservoir. Sure, it’s dumb. And it’s a waste of the energy that had been used to treat the water before leaving it to sit in an open-air reservoir (where all sorts of shit can fall in). But the water isn’t wasted. It’s just been returned to the same river system from whence it came (just a bit farther downstream).
And, more directly related to your post, if I recall correctly, they’ve run into the same canal lining/streamflow declining/springs drying up problem in central and eastern Oregon in the Deschutes and Walla Wall River watersheds. They’ve undertaken some artificial recharge efforts in those areas as well.
That’s a great point about the Portland situation. I hadn’t thought about it that way.
There’s yet another canal lining issue in southeast California that’s even more interesting that I should write about sometime. Water managers decided to line the All-American Canal, in full knowledge that it would reduce groundwater flow across the border in Mexico. So in that case it’s a transborder issue, which added a whole extra layer of complication.