Hydraulic mining is the process of spraying high-pressure jets of water into the ground to dislodge sediment and rocks. The muddy water from this is directed into sluices where valuable materials are removed. This kind of mining has a host of negative environmental effects, like increased flooding and erosion.

It's clear already that to scale this up is a bad idea, but let's do it anyway! : D

Say we have a large water pump floating in space. It propels water at around 300 km/h through an opening 1 km wide. It is used to mine a large swatch of desert 100 km across.

What will the landscape look like after blasting it for an entire day with this massive waterjet? Preferably, the answer gives a rough overview of the appearance of the landscape and briefly summarizes the processes behind that appearance.

Notes and clarifications

Handwaving solves the problem of how the pump is built and supplied.

If someone could also include a small description of the atmospheric effects, that would be very helpful.

The water is all recollected via a tube system, and never travels outside a 50-kilometre radius.

There are extensive aquifers here, bored by stone-eating organisms 100m or so underneath the sand.

I ask this question just so that I can accurately describe the landscape when writing.

The effects on life are negligible. The govt could care less about a desert planet.

The waterjet contains a small amount of abrasive; i.e. one milligram of sand per 100 L of water.

The desert in question looks like this, with mesas and other similar structures:

What the desert in question resembles

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AlexP Many thanks. The question has now been changed $\endgroup$
    – pg4919
    May 14, 2020 at 20:56
  • $\begingroup$ What atmosphere does this planet have - Earth-like or something different? If the pump is floating in space, at what height above ground is the 1km wide nozzle of the hose? $\endgroup$ May 15, 2020 at 1:04

1 Answer 1


Great Salt Lake 2

The water would impact the ground with tremendous force and remove huge amounts of sand and rocks. The water would then flood downhill until it reached either a body of water (unlikely in the desert) or a low point. Check out this video of flooding in the Atacama desert last year for an idea of what the aftermath of a desert flood looks like. You're planning to pelt the desert with an order of magnitude more water than comes in a typical desert flood. You might have enough force that the impact site would become the lowest point in the area.

Strangely, there's a precedent for the sudden introduction of a huge amount of water into the desert. In 1905, a misguided irrigation project resulted in two years of flooding before the flow was stopped. The resulting body of water was dubbed the Salton Sea. Today, the Sea contains 1.8 cubic miles of water.

Salton Sea

Because there's no natural outlet to the Salton Sea (or the sea created by your orbital Super Soaker), it becomes more salty and polluted over time. Runoff from your mining operations and salt would accumulate and make it disgusting. You wouldn't have any fish or other aquatic life unless you manually added it (like the US government did at the Salton Sea in 1950).


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