Nearly every water-ferrying proposal flounders on the same challenge: Water weighs a ton. Literally. A cubic meter of it—the size of a washing machine—tips the scales at 2,000 pounds.

A convoy of trucks or cargo ships carrying the stuff might quench a short-term thirst. But the fuel costs, says David Cwiertny, a civil engineer at the University of Iowa, would sink your efforts. A hundreds-mile-long canal (like those in California) would also work, but it would take at least five years to finish. By then, your drought might be over.

This article originally appeared in the Extreme Weather issue of Popular Science.

Correction: A version of this story that appeared in print stated that David Cwiertny was a civil engineer at Iowa State University when, in fact, he is a professor at the University of Iowa. The online version has been updated to reflect that. We regret the error.