As the dust from the latest California drought continues to settle, water agencies are taking a step back to look at what they can do the next time a dry spell hits the state.
Desalination is often floated as a drought-proof method of making sure water keeps flowing, even in the driest of years. But turning salty ocean water into drinking water is expensive, takes a lot of energy and can hurt coastal habitat.
VOSD’s Ry Rivard uses Southern California’s unusually wet winter to gauge how attitudes toward desalination have shifted.
Poseidon Water, which built the desalination plant in Carlsbad, wants to build another in Huntington Beach. In Santa Barbara, the water agency there has turned back on its desal plant for the time-being. And the Otay Water District is looking at a possible desalination project in Mexico.
Support for the Orange County plant has been waning, though, and Santa Barbara has said its desal plant is for emergencies only. Otay’s Mexico project is still years away and not fully permitted yet.
Rivard writes that while Poseidon and others continue to push hard for a future with lots of desalination, “environmentalists and water officials generally prefer to try water recycling and water conservation efforts before investing in expensive desalination facilities.”
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
Support for desalination is not drying up.
Desalination is a key tool for water managers in California. Making sure a region's water supply is diverse, drought resilient and sustainable is an important decision and responsibility for local officials. Water is key for all members of local communities. Diversified water supply portfolios should not be discouraged just because a year of excess rainfall - just like stock raising or falling should not cause people to get out of a diversified investment/retirement portfolio.
A recent California poll - done after the long wet winter - shows that 90% of Californians support desalination - and over 70% continued to support desalination when different sides of the ocean desalination arguments are put forward. (http://www.waterworld.com/articles/2017/05/poll-californians-strongly-support-seawater-desalination.html). It shows that the general population supports prudent long term planning for local water supply, and their willingness to spend a few more dollars to ensure these local sustainable drought resilient drinking water supplies.
Thanks for the discussion - CalDesal