Can covering California canals with solar panels reduce water evaporation and create clean energy?

California Governor Edmund G. Brown’s Aqueduct is a system of canals, tunnels, and pipelines that transport water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the valleys of Northern and Central California to Southern California. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) operates and maintains the California Aqueduct.
Photo by Ken Lund (CC BY-SA 2.0).

It seems that California is going into another drought. Agriculture drinks a lot of water. The Central Valley has miles of green space where it used to be brown as the California aqueduct irrigates the entire country.

Here’s a novel idea to combat drought and global warming: what if you put solar panels on top of the aqueduct and nearby canals, shading the water, preventing evaporation? As an added bonus, people could potentially use the power that the panels generate. The idea comes from scientists at UC Santa Cruz and UC Merced, who have just published a study in the journal “Nature Sustainability”.

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