California is in the throws of a searing four year drought, the worst in 1200 years. There is no end in sight. The snow pack which supplies large parts of the stare with water is at ten percent of normal. Why not just start up a massive desalination project?
The main reason: Cost. desalination plants cost an enormous amount to plan, build and operate. A spokeswoman for the Marin Municipal Water District, in Northern California says “Right now, conservation costs less than desalination.” A proposed desalination plant in famously environmental Marin County was “scrapped despite two decades of planning and millions of dollars spent on a pilot plant.” The price of desalinated water is at least four times the cost of diverting water by conservation methods, such as paying farmers to install drip irrigation, or providing rebates for homeowners to rip out lawns or buy water-efficient toilets.
Then there is the issue of getting rid of all that salt, something which causes environmentalists great concern. The western hemisphere’s largest desalination plant is being built right now in Carlsbad, north of San Diego. It will produce 50 million gallons of water a day, which to put it in perspective, will supply only 7 percent of San Diego’s population. It has survived six years of government permitting, from the Carlsbad City Council to the California Coastal Commission, and and prevailed through 14 lawsuits and appeals by environmentalists. “It’s a test case,” said Ron Davis, executive director of Cal Desal, an industry advocacy group. “We like to tease them: Only the entire future of desal is riding on this project. No pressure.”
And what about farms? Well, they are not anywhere near being able to afford or have access to desalinated water. Sorry.
Via: KQED, San Jose Mercury News, RedOrbit