The massive new Carlsbad desalination plant is the biggest in the country, capable of supplying water to around 7 percent of the population of San Diego County.
The massive new Carlsbad desalination plant is the biggest in the country, capable of supplying water to around 7 percent of the population of San Diego County. (Adam Keigwin/Poseidon Water)

Desalination just took a huge leap forward in California. The biggest plant in North America, able to purify tens of millions of gallons each day, is now pumping water near San Diego.

The $1 billion Carlsbad facility is a “test case” to backers like Cal Desal executive director Ron Davis, who quipped last year, “Only the entire future of desal is riding on this project. No pressure.”

Now the plant’s completion is a feather in the cap for the builder, Poseidon Water, which hopes to follow suit with a similar desalination project in Huntington Beach.

First though, Poseidon engineers must resolve the question of how the Huntington Beach plant would draw in water. State regulators prefer an intake below the seafloor, to make sure it doesn’t suck in fish and their tiny eggs – but a feasibility study this summer said building that type of intake would cost too much.

Further north, a smaller plant is expected to provide water for several towns around the Monterey Peninsula. But it won’t come online for four years, long after a deadline for the local water company, California American, to stop sucking water from the Carmel River. Cal Am and local officials recently asked the state water board to delay that cutoff order – currently set for the end of 2016 – until the plant can be finished around 2020.

Meantime, a test well for the plant’s subsurface intake, on a beach near the town of Marina, is pulling up a couple thousand gallons of saltwater per minute. Carmel Mayor Jason Burnett says that bolsters hopes that, pending the proper approvals, drilling of more slant wells could get underway in 2017.

Original Story:

Nowhere near enough water has fallen on California in years, and there’s nothing you can do to make it rain.

So where else can we get water? One idea gaining traction is desalination: converting seawater into drinking water. While desal has long been confined by steep costs and environmental concerns, even some critics now say it merits a place in the state’s water portfolio.

South of Los Angeles, in the city of Carlsbad, what will be the nation’s largest desalination facility is nearly ready. For roughly a billion dollars, the plant will produce 7 percent of San Diego County’s water. In Santa Barbara, a plant built amid the drought of the early 1990’s, and idled by the return of rain, could come back online soon and provide 30 percent of the community’s water.

Farther north, another desalination plant is expected to serve several towns in Monterey County. Jason Burnett, the mayor of Carmel, sometimes acts as a kind of spokesman for the planned project — but he’s hardly an evangelist.

“I’ll say at the outset, I am not a fan of desal generally,” says Burnett.

Listen to the Story:

Apart from concerns about the expense, Burnett has a personal stake in desalination’s environmental challenges. He’s the son of two marine biologists, and his grandfather David Packard’s Silicon Valley fortune was integral to founding the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Burnett himself worked on climate rules for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before becoming Carmel’s mayor.

Carmel Mayor Jason Burnett stands on the beach where the Carmel River flows out to the Pacific. Burnett says he's not a fan of desalination, but the Monterey Peninsula is out of alternatives. (Daniel Potter/KQED)
Carmel Mayor Jason Burnett gestures toward the Carmel River, near its mouth at the Pacific. Burnett says he’s not a fan of desalination, but the Monterey Peninsula is out of alternatives. (Daniel Potter/KQED)

“I’ve dedicated my professional life to working on climate change,” Burnett says. “My family is very dedicated to the health of our oceans. So here I am advocating a project that has a large carbon footprint, and, if not done correctly, can hurt the oceans.”

Burnett met me on a beach where the Carmel River flows out to the Pacific Ocean. Nearby, ladies in straw hats were hauling easels and paints out to the sand to capture the picturesque landscape. Wearing designer sunglasses and a crisp blue shirt, Burnett told me desalination was the community’s last resort.

“We’ve explored a wide range of options,” he says. “Everything was on the table — harnessing icebergs and bringing them down, filling up huge balloons of water from up north and bringing them down.”

It came to desal because the area’s for-profit water supplier, California American Water Company, was told it had to find a new source. For decades Cal Am had relied on the Carmel River, but then came a cease-and-desist order intended to protect the river’s threatened steelhead trout. There were years of wrangling and competing designs. A deadline was set for the end of next year –- a deadline Cal Am’s proposed desal plant will not hit. All the same, a plan is moving forward.

“This is, at its core,” says Burnett, “an environmental project.”

Intakes and Outfalls

There are three main environmental considerations when building a desalination plant: how seawater is brought in, how the drinkable water is separated out, and what happens to the salt afterward.

The simplest intake is essentially a straw in the ocean -– a design that risks trapping and killing sea life. One solution is to affix a grate to the end of such a pipe, but even then, tiny larvae and fish eggs can still be sucked in. Instead, regulators tend to prefer what’s known as a “subsurface intake.”

At a cement company’s beachside site on Monterey Bay, California American is currently working on a proof-of-concept for this approach. They’re using directional drilling, similar to the technology oil companies use to extract fossil fuels. The idea is to run a slant well hundreds of feet out, passing beneath the dunes to a spot under the waves. From below 200 feet of sand, and well insulated from any vulnerable sea life, Cal Am hopes to suck up a couple thousand gallons of water per minute.

California American is using directional drilling extend a pipe some 735 feet under the beach, in hopes of sucking in a couple thousand gallons of seawater per minute from below the ocean floor. (Luke Gianni/California American Water Co.)
California American is using directional drilling extend a pipe some 735 feet under the beach, in hopes of sucking in a couple thousand gallons of seawater per minute from below the ocean floor. (Luke Gianni/California American Water Co.)

It will take a huge amount of power to pump that much water, that far.

“Our energy bill is going up, no question,” an engineer on the project told me.

This is the second concern with desalination: once the seawater gets to the plant, it has to be pushed through membranes fine enough that salt can’t pass through them. That requires immense pressure – on the order of a pressure-washer.

An official at a smaller desal facility told me it took $25,000 of electricity per month to produce enough water for 1,200 homes. In Cal Am’s case, they’re hoping to reach a deal to power the plant using methane from a nearby landfill.

One other still-tentative design element addresses the third challenge of the desalination process: all that salt has to go somewhere.

Only about half of the saltwater piped into a desal plant is made drinkable. All the salt that’s separated out ends up concentrated into the other half, in a kind of brine that’s much denser than seawater. As a result, it doesn’t easily mix back in.

If it’s just dumped carelessly back into the ocean, it sinks, and can kill any marine life having the misfortune of dwelling on the seafloor below.

Blending the briny byproduct back into the ocean may involve sprayers, or in Cal Am’s case, an existing outfall that the nearby Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency uses to dispose of wastewater. It’s a pipe that runs thousands of feet out to sea, with small holes spaced ten feet apart, so not too much brine would pour out in any one place.

The desal facility isn’t expected to start delivering water to customers for several years, and in the meantime, it has to navigate a regulatory thicket of needed approvals.

Optional or Inevitable?

In recent years, desalination projects were considered in places like Marin County and Santa Cruz, only to end up sidelined amid skepticism. Between the environmental headaches and the cost of engineering work-arounds, critics argued the technology is often more trouble than it’s worth.

To the extent that conservation’s an option, it’s much simpler and cheaper to do. Mayor Burnett says the towns along the Monterey Peninsula have just about wrung out that sponge for all it’s worth: people there get by on 60 gallons per day — less than half what many Californians use.

Susan Jordan with the California Coastal Protection Network is a longtime critic of desal. She says, indeed, communities should first exhaust their other options.

“If you’re going to do something like desal,” Jordan says, “you want to make sure you’re doing everything you can in terms of conservation, water recycling, water re-use, and you don’t want unsustainable development that just perpetuates your problem, or the state’s problem.”


That question of what constitutes sustainable development underpins the debate around desal. The counter-argument I heard from Scott Maloni, vice president at Poseidon Water, is: what if there are no alternatives?

“The larger concern is climate change, and what happens ten years from now and twenty years from now,” says Maloni, whose company is building the big plant outside San Diego and hopes to add another like it in Huntington Beach. “Can you really count on the Colorado River or Northern California to continue to supply the vast majority of the state’s population with water?”

I asked several people what percentage of California’s overall water portfolio desalination might someday make up, and only Maloni was willing to venture a guess. He says such plants are most efficient when they’re built big, thereby reaping economies of scale. Between that and the stringent permitting process, he says, you could probably count the number of viable sites on two hands.

“And so I think you could be looking at somewhere between 10 to 20 percent of the state’s municipal and industrial demand,” Maloni says.

It’s worth noting that would seem to leave out agriculture; Maloni envisions desal serving the state’s coastal urban populations.

Maloni and several others I spoke with also made the point that, while the technical challenges of designing and constructing an environmentally sound desalination plant are serious, the permitting process is lengthy and could well last longer than the drought itself.

Why Isn’t Desalination the Answer to All California’s Water Problems? 22 December,2016Daniel Potter

  • beaky

    yeah forget desalination, it would be way more environmentally responsible to have all plant life in California wither and die

    • galactic12

      Ignorance at its best. Keep up the good work, beaky. Did you even read the article?? How desalination has a thing to do with watering ‘plant life’ is just one boggling detail you left out. The list of things that are short on water, their effects in the natural cycles, and the reasons we are experiencing this current drought might be things should could explore in your efforts to educate yourself.

      • dyannne

        I think beaky may have had his tongue in cheek.

  • Nothing more clearly tells us how loony environmentalists are than the comments of the Carmel ,mayor. Instead of embracing proven technology and reasonable standards to address the usual eco hysteria, he wanted to explore hauling icebergs down to California. This fool is considered a leader. Please note, the gnashing of teeth about the electricity needed to power the plant but not one peep about the eco efforts to destroy California’s nuclear power plants, a source of the cleanest juice. I can’t imagine going thru life hating human beings as these folks do.

    • Doug DeMoss

      Cleanest juice? You might want to check with the residents of Okuma (near Fukushima) and Chernobyl about that. Oh, wait, there aren’t any any more.

      • Jesus Zamora

        Those tragedies, while horrible, have more to do with gross incompetence and poor design than simply being because it’s nuclear. The RBMK design used at Chernobyl wasn’t great to begin with, even ignoring the compromises made to reactor 4 or the Soviet nepotism that got idiots put in charge of the reactor. As to Fukushima Daiichi, the structure survived the earthquake, but for some reason, the backup diesel generators (designed to keep the cooling systems running in case something happens) were kept outdoors, and were thus shorted out in the ensuing tsunami.

        In both cases, it was grotesque human error, not nuclear power being some sort of bogeyman.

    • Frank

      It wasn’t the Carmel Mayor who proposed hauling ice bergs or large bladders down the coast James. he was simply referring to just some of the nutty ideas that were suggested during the last bad droughts we have had. And that is just some of them.

  • Steve Mclean

    water should not be a “for profit” business, too much opportunity for gouging.

    • Mountain

      Water should not be a government business: too much opportunity for corruption and waste.

      • AlphaNerd

        You make our national water supplies for profit commodities and I am personally starting a revolution. The right to water is fundamental to the right to life. There is no greater breach of the social contract than denying water to citizens. We have already seen what companies do when they own the water supply and it is awful.

        • Mountain

          “You make our national water supplies for profit commodities and I am personally starting a revolution.”

          I don’t have the power to make water a for-profit commodity, but I am curious: how would you personally start a revolution?

          “water is fundamental to the right to life.”

          Food is also fundamental to life. Food is a for-profit commodity, and there seems to be no shortage of food. Are you personally going to start a revolution because food is a for-profit commodity?

          “There is no greater breach of the social contract than denying water to citizens.”

          And yet, that is where government control of water has led us. The drought hasn’t helped, but the main reason we have a water shortage is because people use too much. With government control of water, the price of water is subsidized. Because people aren’t paying the true cost of water, they use too much.

          “We have already seen what companies do when they own the water supply and it is awful.”

          Actually, what we have seen is what the government does when it controls the water supply. And it is awful.

          • Jau

            And with water-metering it would not be a problem to have a free quota per house. Say 100 gallons a day. -Much more than needed to sustain life.

          • Jacob

            put the quota on almonds, not people… do we need almonds to sustain life?

          • Jau

            Why not a quota no matter what it’s for. If you wanna use the water to drink, flush the toilet, water almonds or just spill it on the ground is up to you as long as you pay the cost to get the water in a substainable way when it goes over the quota.

          • whomedoyou

            You can grow food in other parts of the world and ship it economically. Today – you cannot ship water across large distances economically in the quantities it is required for irrigation and human consumption.

        • Jacob

          we deny the right to life to millions every year… water is a right… if you can obtain it, you have a right to it. business is also a right… if you can make a buck exploiting it and people around are to lazy to fulfill the need, then thank you!

          • Jau

            Water is a right, but to get it cooled and in a bottle or from your tap is not a right.

            If you want it for free, you gotta be willing to collect it yourself from a waterpost.

  • Nayana

    Just a thought, instead of dissolving the brine (by product of desalination) back to sea why not to take at least a certain amount of salt out of it (to use as sea salt or in any other commercial product) and reduce the concentration. This might be done by creating salt beds and making use of solar energy.

    • Leftcoastrocky


      • MisterMoustache

        Or we could put the salt brine back where it came from…in the ocean.

        • Jau

          Sure, but why not use the opportunity when there is an ample supply of brine?

        • n0n0

          You’re more dense than the brine.

  • “Nowhere near enough water has fallen on California in years, and there’s nothing you can do to make it rain.”

    This statement is False. There are a variety of ways to make it rain. Planting trees and restoring soil biology are the two best. Mulching helps. Not using all of California’s water to grow Almonds to be shipped overseas would be a great help as well. If we can create drought, we can create rain. This is just basic ecology and hydrology. Please learn science before spreading misinformation.

    • educ8yourself

      Not using California’s water to grow almonds has absolutely nothing to do with being able to “make it rain.” So while the author may not understand science, at least according to you, you fail to see your own logical fallacies.

      • Hi there. Actually inefficient water use in agriculture is a primary cause of the lack of rain. Water applied in industrial agriculture, such as almonds, evaporates very quickly and limits the amount of water re-entering California’s water cycle, mostly due to poor organic matter and poor soil biology in industrial agricultural soil. When water doesn’t re-enter the water cycle, it isn’t available to come back as rain further down the cycle.

        • educ8yourself

          Genuinely interested in this concept. If this is indeed true, then I will own my own ignorance and apologize for my earlier statement. Do you have any sources I can read that discusses industrial agriculture directly impacting rainfall? I have only read about agricultural depleting groundwater recharge, but never the next step that that then leads to reduced rainfall.

        • EdZachary

          I don’t think that much of California’s rain, when we have it, comes from the “water cycle”. From my observations, the big rain comes off the ocean in the form of huge storms. While I am sure there is some evaporation from land that adds to the rain water cycle, it’s got to be small compared to ocean storms.

        • James Fenimore Cooper

          Valid concepts that should have been tried 30 or more years ago. It is too late in the game for experiments. Wells in the Central Valley are running dry NOW. I think Agriculture is toast in California. Satellite photos show no more ground water in that whole valley. They can drill deeper for a few more years, but that is it.

        • bereniceweber

          I think your concept is very interesting, and isn’t this deforestation and breaking water cycles the pronciples behind global warming? And what do you think of the numbers of water used for animal feed? I think alfalfa and hay take so much water than almonds in California, please take a look at this article thanks!

    • James Fenimore Cooper

      Rain dances and prayer have been tried extensively in Texas with no results. Now Texas is jumping into desalination with both feet using the world’s leading company – IDE Technologies. They are world’s largest desal company with projects worldwide. Come on California. Get the lead out Governor Brown. Act like a LEADER – please!

    • 54StarryNights

      “Planting trees and restoring soil biology are the two best.” That may br true, but establishing trees requires some water so it’s a little late at this moment of statewide extreme drought. It would have been better started 10 years ago had someone had the foresight and a revenue source for such a project. Now all that is happening is that everything is drying up or dried up and burning up. Also, the natural growing seasons are screwed up. In my area for instance in Northern California inner coastal mountains, everything but the conifers lose their leaves in winter. Typically one of the first things to blossom then leaf out are the western redbuds in late March followed by the leafing out and blossoming of locust trees in in mid April followed by the leafing out of the oaks and maples. This year the western redbud blossomed and started leafing out in mid February then instead of being followed by the locust trees the oaks leafed out at the end of February and only now are the locusts starting to leaf out. There have been years here when we have had snow on the ground in March and in higher elevations in April and rain as late as May or even June. With the exception of 0.36 inches of rain a couple of weeks ago, we have not had a drop since December at which time we had the only rain of the winter in two storms. The lack of water combined with higher tan average temperature by as much as 40 degrees warmer than usual is causing this havoc. How are we supposed to establish new trees now?

    • bereniceweber

      I think almonds are the least of our problems, feeding animals and shipping alfalfa to China is! 47% of California’s water footprint is associated with meat and diary, and only 4% with household use. The water used to irrigate alfalfa and hay used for livestock feed exceedes the water used for all vegetables, berries, and fruits combined. There are numerous articles asking California, and the planet, to reduce the consumption of animal products and eating a plantbased diet, from the New York Times, United Nations, Scientific American, and the US Geological Water Science School. A typical veggie (soy) burger takes about 42 gallons of water to produce and contains 20g of protein, versus the thristy beef quarter pounder that needs 621 gallons of water and has about 18g of protein. The livestock business is one of the most damaging sectors for the environment, not only water wise.

      • Animals raised on industrial feedlots are a huge ecological problem in all regards, but animals raised properly can actually sink huge amounts of carbon into the soil and provide tremendous ecological benefit. Its more about the process than the individual elements.

    • Agritech Media

      If you think you can create “rainfall on demand” the kind needed to serve millions of people, please we just have to see this.

      Let us know, given we’re in the food, energy, water business, we have potentially billions ready to pour in to your ideas that smart people haven’t thought of already.

      • You wrote “rainfall on demand” in quotes, but I never wrote that. I am simply encouraging the redevelopment of forests, grasslands, wetlands, and other vital ecosystems which have been destroyed through industrial agriculture and unsustainable “development” which have altered and disrupted our states (and the world’s) water cycle and created this drought. What I am talking about is also what I am doing through our work at The Growing Club ( and Sarvodaya Farms (

        • Agritech Media

          Rishi the problem is, it’s 11:59 and you sound like a smart enough human being that understands the complexities of the world around you. This “ecological engineering” on a grand scale should have been done years ago, but the problems were quite literally ignored, almost to the point of abstract denial, citizens are still in denial.

          Fine to do that in your small community, but given there are tens of millions of citizens facing imminent catastrophe across the food, energy, water security nexus, not to mention the serious financial black holes some states are in…do you see the issues? This is what the Pentagon warned about years ago, but nothing was done!

          Overpopulation has now morphed into both an energy & financial crisis and this is going to accelerate.

          You should check for local military activity in the California area because our analysts see serious disruptions on the horizon and we’re all angry as hell because this was warned about well in advance!

    • Jau

      Almond trees are, as indicated by their name, actually trees.

    • Jeffrey Lee

      If trees produce more rain, why does having so many almond trees in CA, not solve the lack of rain problem.

  • Adriana Saavedra

    Since we also have the concern of sea levels rising, does anyone know if there has been any research about creating saline rivers and reservoirs? The first place that comes to my head is diverting ocean water to try to fill something as big as the Great Canyon. If we do saline reservoirs in extremely hot regions, wouldn’t this induce precipitation in a natural way? We might even be able to turn around desertic environments into tropical forests!

    It might sound preposterous but if we are trying to build a pipe to carry oil across the country, why could’t we build something like this? It could create jobs and infraestructure helping the economy as it did after the great depression.

    • Doug DeMoss

      The Grand Canyon is problematic because the Colorado River flows through it. California, as well as a number of other southwestern states, gets a fair amount of its water from there currently – to the point that the river no longer reaches the ocean. And typically those hot areas are dry enough that adding a large salty lake (such as the Great Salt Lake in Utah, or the Salton Sea in California) won’t add enough moisture to the air to cause any precipitation. I’m not sure they even add enough to produce a discernible change in humidity.

  • EddyKilowatt

    Desalination is pretty ugly from an energy standpoint as, fundamentally, you are pumping water up to something like 20 times normal tap pressure in order to push it through the membrane filters. One small point in its favor is that the product, fresh water, is energy-rich and easy to store. This makes desal an ideal customer for the variable output of renewable energy sources: make water while the sun shines and wind blows.

    • IfSlashWhen

      If you use nuclear (NuScale for example), the incremental cost of energy for desalination approaches zero. Energy is the most plentiful thing in the universe. It simply takes an intelligent life form to direct energy for its own purposes.

      I do agree 100% with Susan Jordan though, that you need to maximize re-use and recycling and minimize development.

      • The Truth Is Out There

        I don’t disagree with you here, but while we don’t really get the same type of weather treatment as Japan, what do we do to not risk a “Fukushima” style disaster if we go in that direction?

        Also, would it be better to spend that money on Dams to catch the melting mountain snow? I’m not that old, but from what I hear, we haven’t built a dam in almost 50 years. Would investing money in dams to stop the run off of melting snow and “hold” it, for a lack of better words, be more ideal?

        • IfSlashWhen

          Nuscale reactors are inherently safe and don’t require power in order to shutdown (unlike the reactors at Fukushima). This renders impossible the situation that occurred at Fukushima (which was due to the diesel generators required to circulate cooling water being flooded by the tsunami).

          It is also important to keep in mind (for some perspective) that even with the ancient (less safe) reactor design at Fukushima, not a single person has died from the meltdown, even though more than 23,000 people died from the direct effect of the tsunami. I am sure that some of the plant workers who initially responded will eventually die due to the exposure to radiation, but nuclear related deaths will then represent less than half a percent of total deaths of that terrible disaster (so even the worst case scenario represented by the second generation nuclear technology at Fukushima is noise in the overall scale of the devestation wrought by the tsunami).

          • JusticeDelivered

            Are you telling us that there is no long term damage either directly, through the food chain or other environmental factors to all of humanity over time? I think that you lack understanding of the implications of the Fukushima disaster.

    • MisterMoustache

      $20 a month? That’s scary? Come on now. We have more that ample solar power to cover that cost and then some.

      • James Fenimore Cooper

        Show me your numbers. Show me how solar is going to desalinate water for 38 million people.

        • Gear Mentation

          It’s right in the article if you think about it: desalination costs $20/month per household. You think each household can’t generate $20 worth of electricity with solar panels?

          • scott wayland

            ^ 5 panels can do that

          • David Ugarte

            5 pannels and battery bank/converter/etc will cost about $2000 and that’s if you can wire up the components yourself. So in 100 months it would pay for its self….if it lasts 100 months

          • Dan Peterson

            My household will pay $20 to the water co a month extra if needs ge.

    • James Fenimore Cooper

      We should not do desalination. It kills fish. We should just run out of water. If we die the fish will still be okay and that’s good.

      • Deborah Stone

        OK great, now that’s a solution.

      • L R

        Properly done, it will not kill fish.

        • deanbob

          …and the article said the desal co. is studying this.

    • RaiseTheBlackFlag

      Do you have examples of municipal-scale potable water storage?
      To my knowledge, there are plenty of reservoirs for pre-treatment water, but I’ve never heard of storage of treated water at scale.
      The cost of such would certainly seem to make already expensive desal water more expensive.

  • Joseph Rizzi

    Natural Desalination uses 100% nature to Power it with Zero brine. Locating the RO Desal. field off coast about 3 miles and 1/2 mile under the sea allow us to get all the fresh water we want using only the power of the weight of water. Using horizontal drilling allows the water to use gravity downhill to shore and CETO wave power can be used to bring the fresh water up to be used or transported for use.

  • Water conservation and greywater systems should come far before using a ton of energy and billions of dollars to make a little more water.

    Also, water should be a public utility, obviously.

    • Leftcoastrocky

      Water conservation and greywater systems and desal should all be done at the same time

      • IfSlashWhen


    • Gear Mentation

      $20/mo per household for desalinated water is very economical. Greywater systems are always a good thing, but considering that only about 5% of water usage is household, saving water on that level isn’t a big deal.

    • James Fenimore Cooper

      When we get down to No Water, we can’t recycle No Water. Farmers are pumping our water savings account like madmen to make the last buck possible before they suck it all out of the ground. We need a Water Czar to regulate pumping and impose jail sentences on those who ignore new rules.

      • Mountain

        We need prices that reflect cost and availability, not water czars and jail sentences. We’ve tried czars and jail sentences with the War on Drugs– in addition to ruining millions of lives and wasting billions of dollars, it hasn’t actually reduced drug use. At all.

        Farmers are pumping water like madmen because it is virtually free. Establish a price that reflects water’s scarcity, and water use will drop accordingly. It’s possible to farm without irrigation in almost all parts of California, but not with the water-intensive crops and wasteful practices we currently use. People waste water because it is nearly free.

        • AlphaNerd

          I have no problem with charging for commercial use. But residential water MUST be nominal or free. And there MUST be public forms of water access.

          • foo

            Why does residential water have to be free? Heck, I live in Michigan, within 5 miles of the lake, and I’ve got a water meter and get a bill every quarter.

          • Water costs billions to treat and clean..pumping is very energy intensive, that’s why.

          • Mountain

            AlphaNerd, who are you to insist that residential water MUST be free? If you have water and want to give it away for free, that’s fine. But if you’re insisting that others must give away water for free, you’re just trying to force yourself on others. And it’s wrong to force yourself on others.

      • Mike Carey

        California has to get smarter about its farming practices.

        People everywhere seem to keep doing things because that’s the way we have always done them. During a visit to Costa Rica a few years ago we were told that they grew rice with “dry farming” methods, despite the excess of rainfall there. And, of course, California’s rice farms in the delta use “wet paddy” methods.

        It’s easy to ask households to use less water, but we only use 4 per cent of the available water as it is, so something else has to be tried.

        Something like using nuclear power to desalinate sea water. The recently closed San Onofre plant could be reactivated to provide enough power to desalinate 2 to 3 MILLION acre feet of water per year. That’s most of what we get from the Colorado River now for Los Angeles!

        The cost to replace its steam generators and build a desalination plant would be far less that it is going to cost to decommission it!

        • Doug DeMoss

          If that was really the case, San Onofre wouldn’t BE being decommissioned.

          • James Fenimore Cooper

            Why not start San Onofre? Have you been listening to the fearmonger anti-nukes? Tell them to show you the dead bodies from nuclear reactors. The U.S. Navy has proved reactors completely safe.

          • JTP

            Having a 40 year old nuke plant built on a major fault is a recipe for disaster. Ask Japan.

          • Rosario

            Japans mistake was putting the backup diesel generator that keep the coolant water pumping within striking distance of a tsunami wave. The problems started when the diesel got flooded and stalled

          • DMcD

            Because, even by SDG&Es’ own analysis, the cooling pipes installed throughout San Onofre are of inferior quality & were already leaking & are prohibitively expensive to replace. And to your other point; guess where all those “safe” Navy reactors get dumped after their 20yr lifetime expires…the ocean, the same place your fish dinner comes from. There is no such thing as “completely safe” when it comes to nukes & nobody (incl you or your grandchildren) is immune from the consequences.

          • Aaron68

            Your fish dinner does not come from the bottom of the ocean, and no nuclear waste has been dumped in the ocean since the early 90s. Decommissioned nuclear vessels have their reactor compartments sealed and kept in dry storage until getting buried. At any rate, radiation does travel far in water.


        • James Fenimore Cooper

          Mike, excellent post. Nuclear desalination is the answer, same as the U.S. Navy has done for 60 years without a single radiation injury or death. Nuclear is totally safe if handled correctly, just like fire.

          Contact your Congressman. Writing here alone won’t help.

    • James Fenimore Cooper

      Nick, you seem dismissive of water. Can I have yours when water gets low? Where do you live? What’s your address?

  • Gary

    Let’s see … on the one hand you have a record drought that threatens agriculture, drinking water and the viability of the sixth largest economy in the world. On the other hand you have fish larvae on a relatively small stretch of beach.

    Choose wisely, grasshopper. Choose wisely.

    • rongway

      Remember, this is Kalifornia…

    • 54StarryNights

      Taking the little fishes into account is planning wisely. They tend to be lower down on the food chain for a lot of bigger fishes, mammals, birds, and humans, so if the little fishes go the bigger fish, mammal, and bird loses could cascade up the chain throwing a lot of things out of whack and destroying the fishing industry and a lot of businesses and livelihoods that depend upon it.

  • Jimmy Fishbob Geraghty
  • Kimballs

    We are destined to become harkonnens

  • Leftcoastrocky

    let’s do it ASAP — the drought problem is only going to get worse

  • Scott McDonough

    They should talk to the Austrailians they just stood up a plant that does desal and generates electrcity using wave motion.

  • Ronald J Riley

    The the only correct solution, lower the population to sustainable levels, starting by expelling all the illegal’s.

    The greatest threat to the environment is way too many people.

    • 54StarryNights

      I wouldn’t be too surprised to discover the illegal population in California may be dropping now that the agricultural sector is declining due to a lot of acreage being taken out of production due to the drought with a consequent loss of jobs. Also, a number of the communities that have totally run out of water are agricultural communities which has made life even tougher for everyone there but especially for the poor many of whom are also illegals.

      • JusticeDelivered

        From the stats, it appears that a 7% water saving can be realized by expelling illegals.

        • Mountain

          No. Illegal immigrants tend to be poor, and poor people use less water than average. No solid numbers on this, but immigrants’ water use is probably closer to the average use in Mexico– which is about half of what it is in the U.S. So, already your water savings are down to 4% rather than 7%.

          Then, you have to factor in the water spent in catching and expelling illegal immigrants– after all, Border Patrol and ICE need to stay hydrated. And, of course, there’s the water for courthouses and detention centers and all the other governmental detritus involved in the process. There’s still probably some water savings, but you may very well end up using more water than you save.

          Of course, if this is your solution, you probably don’t actually care about saving water.

          • JusticeDelivered

            Producing water from salt water way is costly, so those who are consuming water as illegals represent the highest incremental water cost.

          • Mountain

            What you said doesn’t actually make any sense. Rather than a sentence, you have produced a word salad.

          • JusticeDelivered

            Yep, I was in a hurry to leave.

            1) Desalination produces the most expensive water.

            2) Illegals represent the most expensive consumption.

            3) Getting rid of illegals reduces demand for the most costly water.

      • I’m with you, but what makes a person illegal? This is poor language.

        • Paul Kersey

          The law [ constitution ]

    • Always flag racist posts.

  • hellboundbuddha

    what about wave energy to power desal plants?

  • Glen Holt

    What about Fukashima? Desal doesn’t remove the radiation.

  • Gear Mentation

    $20 per month per household? Oh lord, how terribly expensive. Sounds like desalination is an ideal solution.

  • EdZachary

    For generations there was a viable business in the San Francisco Bay that consisted of de-watering salt and selling the salt. Now we are looking at a process that de-salts water, with salt as a byproduct. Is there a viable market to finish the de-watering process and sell the salt?

    • And they ruined the South Bay with the excess salt..look at the hugenredmpatches on Google Maps.

      • EdZachary

        The huge red patches actually come from, I believe, brine shrimp that grow in briny water. The red color goes away as the level of salt concentration eventually increases, killing the brine shrimp. In the end it’s white, the color of typical salt. So far, the “dead” bay seems to be recovering nicely where they cut openings in the levees to allow brackish bay water to flow in and out with the tide as part of the large-scale recovery plan. Contrary to much ill-informed opinion, the salt flats are not permanently dead at all.

      • EdZachary

        The red patches came and went as the salt ponds progressed through the process. The red was an algae that grows rapidly in very salty water. When the salt reached a certain point, the red went away as the algae died. Then the process started over again when the salt was removed from the pond and it was flooded again.

  • MisterMoustache

    Where will the residents of Carmel ever come up with the money for the energy costs of desalination. By the writer’s own account that is $25,000 per month for 1200 households. In other words, the people of Carmel will have to cash in the kids college fund to come up with $20.83 per month for permanent water security. Oh the humanity.

    • James Fenimore Cooper

      Nuclear powered desalination will actually cut utility bills because it is cheaper by far to operate than with conventional fossil fuels.

  • James Fenimore Cooper

    This article has one big gap- the desalination described runs off burning fossil fuel. That creates more global warming which is, according to scientists and our Governor, what caused the drought in the first place. So, fossil fuel powered desalination worsens droughts.

    Solution, desalinate with nuclear power. Saudi Arabia has a nuclear desalination plant. They are cheaper to run, but best of all they create no green house gases.

    Before anti nuclear activists close Diablo Canyon, a plant with not a single accident, injury or fatality from the reactor in almost 30 years, we should retro fit it with a desalination plant.

    Next we need to change the no reactors in California rule” in this dire water emergency and build a string of nuclear plants along the California coast. New generation molten salt plants are about to be commercially available. They can be built cheaper, run on fuels like Thorium which are literally dirt cheap, have tiny waste and that waste lasts only a short time before it naturally decays to an inert material.

    The California drought is a WWII sized emergency. Think about it – our 38 million people and $2 trillion economy soon without our most valuable resource – WATER.

    Time to think big and act big as America did when we faced highly threatening circumstances in WWII. Contact your representative. Let Him/her know YOUR opinion. We need action soon.

    William Gloege
    Californian for Green Nuclear Power

    • bereniceweber

      47% of California’s water footprint is associated with meat and diary, and only 4% with household use. The water used to irrigate alfalfa and hay used for livestock feed exceedes the water used for all vegetables, berries, and fruits combined. There are numerous articles asking California, and the planet, to reduce the consumption of animal products and eating a plantbased diet, from the New York Times, United Nations, Scientific American, and the US Geological Water Science School. A typical veggie (soy) burger takes about 42 gallons of water to produce and contains 20g of protein, versus the thristy beef quarter pounder that needs 621 gallons of water and has about 18g of protein. The livestock business is one of the most damaging sectors for the environment, not only water wise. We need to save water apart from worring where it comes from, not running water while brushing your teeth is not enough, we need to Eat Less Water too!

      • Mountain

        Alfalfa is actually one of the most drought-resistant plants in agriculture. It’s been demonstrated to thrive in conditions with 10 inches or less of rainfall per year, and has the ability to go dormant in order to survive drought conditions. Farmers irrigate it because irrigation water is cheap and readily available. If Californa cuts off irrigation supplies, or at least starts charging a reasonable price for it, alfalfa will adapt just fine. Soybeans and almonds, on the other hand, will die without irrigation.

        • bereniceweber

          I think Monsanto is developing a drought-resistant alfalfa but is not the one used in California, but I might be wrong, still, processing the plants, like soy beans, through the animals instead of eating them directly, is a very inefficient way to produce nutrients and calories for humans to survive. I am surprised nobody mentions reducing animal agriculture when talking about the drought in California, we just know meat and animal products are becoming every day more unsustainable. Take a look at this and to the Meat Eaters Guide from EWG

          • Mountain

            Alfalfa originated in the area that is now Iran, an area whose climate is remarkably similar to that of California. From the very beginning, it has been drought-resistant. There are lots of different varieties, but wherever cheap irrigation water isn’t available (in California or anywhere else), people grow the more drought-resistant varieties.

            Take another look at your water footprint table. The green represents rainfall, the blue represents irrigation water. The green is not available for human consumption, it’s the water that goes into the soil regardless of whether we take advantage of it by growing crops in that soil. The blue is water from rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, water that could be used for drinking and bathing, rather than diverted to agricultural.

            2/3 of the water used to grow animal feed is naturally occurring rainfall. The water used for alfalfa, straw and hay is also largely naturally occurring rainfall. The water used for almonds, walnuts, and tomatoes, on the other hand, is almost entirely irrigation water. If we grew more almonds, walnuts, and tomatoes and less alfalfa, we’d actually be sucking our reservoirs dry even faster.

            And growing plants for animals is only inefficient in areas that are well-suited for growing human crops and have plenty of water. In dry climates like California, and in any hilly area with marginal soil, it makes more sense to grow drought-resistant plants that aren’t human-edible but which animals love. Alfalfa is a great example, but there’s also vetch, scotch broom, acacia trees, and lots of others. They all do a great job of surviving droughts, preventing erosion, improving the soil, and feeding animals.

  • Jay

    Well written article. One missing piece of information is that the energy usage for state-of-the-art seawater RO is about 2-3 kWh/cubic meter of produced water [], which while being quite a bit of energy, is comparable with what we already do with the State Water Project (~1.7 kWh/cubic meter) pumping water huge distances [].

  • Peggy Kitting

    It will hurt the ocean in that area somehow. We can’t see it now, but later.

  • Mike Carey

    California has to get smarter about its water use practices.

    People everywhere seem to keep doing things because that’s the way we have
    always done them. During a visit to Costa Rica a few years ago we were told that they grew rice with “dry farming” methods, despite the excess of rainfall there. And, of course, California’s rice farms in the delta use “wet paddy” methods.

    It’s easy to ask households to use less water, but we only use 4 per cent of the available water as it is, so something else has to be tried.

    Something like using nuclear power to desalinate sea water. The recently closed San Onofre plant could be reactivated to provide enough power to desalinate 2 to 3 MILLION acre feet of water per year. That’s most of what we get from the Colorado River now for Los Angeles!

    The cost to replace its steam generators and build a desalination plant would be far less that it is going to cost to decommission it!

    • Greg Majersky

      Nuclear power itself requires alot of fresh water for the secondary cooling system, which is lost as steam in the turbines.

      • Mike Carey

        Sounds like a good idea to divert that heat to desalinating water, right? Low carbon energy and fresh water for other uses.

        • Greg Majersky

          Drawing heat from the cooling system to desalinate? Yes, it can be done, you just have to convince the power plant owners to invest in very expensive modifications, then there would be the permitting and safety reviews (nobody wins in a nuke reactor accident).

          But from a pure energy balance perspective, you would take heat away from the steam to evaporate the sea water (desalination occurs two ways, RO and thermal, you are talking thermal). Taking the heat away from the steam in the secondary loop turns that steam to water, which then destroys the turbines that make electricity for homes.

          And even if you could make it all work, what do you do with pools of sludgy, deadly brine water? OR, if you spend more on zero liquid discharge systems for desal, what do you do with the pile of salt crystals? They are very unfriendly to life.

          • Mike Carey

            Sure, Greg, but the engineering issues have already been solved.

            Nuclear powered US Navy ships have been desalinating water for decades, and they have recently demonstrated that they can even synthesize jet fuel from sea water so that they don’t need to haul it around with them. Saudi Arabia is an example of where the nuclear powered desalination plants are being built for civilian use.

            Problems can be solved – it’s not like a moon landing after all. Cheers.

          • Greg Majersky

            Nobody is getting a hold of US navy nuke tech anytime soon, and using liquid metal (sodium in the US, lead in Russia) is old hat. And your reactor is dead if you have to shut it off for any reason.

            In the end, capturing and treating urban storm drainage is far lower in energy and footprint than building any desalination operation. And by capturing urban storm drainage, you are removing a source of pollution from the environment.

            With desal, you create alot of waste and have a big environmental footprint.

          • Mike Carey

            The Navy research is being done as an R&D program. The technology is open to all.

            Liquid SALT, Greg, not liquid metal. Check wikipedia for Molten Salt Reactors, or do a google search for LFTR’s, Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors.

            California, where I live, is considering desalination in our unprecedented drought emergency. The problem is we’ll have to use more imported coal power to do it, unless saner heads can stop spending billions to decommission a perfectly sited and usable nuclear plant at San Onofre.
            Take care.

          • Greg Majersky

            Mike, salt is a chemical compound consisting of a cation and an anion.

            The “salt” you refer to is liquid sodium, which is a metal, as is lead, which the Russians were using in the 1970s.

            Thorium is also a metal, flourine is an anion.

            By the way, as a reporter you should have done more in-depth investigation. I’ve read your ABC articles, very pro-desal, and you completely ignore the well-documented drawbacks of large scale desal operations in Australia and here.

          • Mike Carey

            Check the wikipedia sites, again, Greg. There are more “salts” than you seem to be aware of.

            Thanks for the promoting me to being a reporter, but that’s not me. A good reporter always double checks his sources. There are lots of Mike Carey’s out there. (And I’m not the former NFL referee, either.}

          • Greg Majersky

            There are lots of salts, but a salt is two or more elements, such as

            iron sulfate
            barium iodide
            sodium chloride

            At least the reporter Mike Carey would have done some research.

          • Mike Carey

            Still haven’t looked at the wikipedia pages, have you Greg?
            Take care.

          • Greg Majersky

            I don’t use wikipedia, I use real sites. When you talk about salt cooled reactors, you must mean this:

            But they have been tried and failed. I was discussing liquid metal cooled reactors such as this:


            The US Navy has deployed sodium cooled reactors, and the Russians used lead cooled reactors. In fact, the Russians are starting to commercialize that old technology for civilian use in desolate areas.

            So your idea to solve California’s drought problems is to deploy a technology that has a record of failure during real Navy tests? It is expensive, risky, and proven to be unreliable in the real world. Do you work in Silicon Valley?

            And somehow that is supposed to be better than simply hooking up pipes and treatment equipment to urban storm drain networks?

          • Mike Carey

            Sure, Greg, you’ve got it all figured out. Nothing else to say. Cheers.

  • wildmarket

    Reducing meat consumption will lead to big water saver! So much water and other resources are being used to raise the animals~

    • P P

      Your post reminded me of the soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev who banned the peasants from growing wheat to make their own bread, so then when the demand for store-bought bread jumped, he started rationing the bread because he was convinced that the peasants are feeding bread to the pigs. He then taxed then livestock because he thought that the peasants were selling the meat on the market– and the peasants slaughtered all of their livestock. After that he taxed all personal fruit trees, thinking the peasants were selling the fruit on the market. The peasants chopped down all of their fruit trees. The result: there was no food.

  • P P

    — I can save you tons in a day: ban the bottled water companies from using California’s tap water and then selling the bottled water out of state.
    Other thoughts:
    — Get rid of the golf courses
    — Farming is using 95% of water, while the residents use 5%. Why is Brown coming down on the residents?
    — Why do you need a membrane in a desal plant? Why not simply boil the water out and collect the steam? Use solar and ocean current turbines to create electricity to run the pump and heaters. Sell the salt — Sea salt is more expensive than regular table salt.
    — If you don’t want to suck out the marine life, dig a reservoir that’s passively fed by the low pressure pipes from the ocean floor and pump from there.

  • Vartika Darshana

    I don’t think that we will have much choice here. People forget their history and the scientific record:

    Yes, california has faced droughts that have lasted *100 years or more* – as did happen in the 12th and 13th centuries. We simply cannot rely on rainfall for our water.

    If we were really, really, really smart, we’d suck-it-up, ask the federal government for assistance, and be mass-producing these things with a huge R&D component as to drive the cost down. With 250 full-size desalinization plants we could provide *all* our water and never be vulnerable to water shortages again. We’d look to israel for the technology and expertise to help scale up.

    If we wanted to get extra credit and being super smart, we’d use nuclear power to power these, especially a fault-tolerant system like LFTR or MSRs:

    which would as a bonus be a gateway to getting off of coal and natural gas.

    As for the brine water, well, don’t put it back in the ocean – pump it into the desert. Perhaps we would get extra rainfall from the water as it evaporated and dried, getting more bang for the buck than if we were just desalinizing alone.

    Anyways, I’m not optimistic on this – I live in california, and people are way too apathetic about the whole thing. Terrorists? HUGE threat. Running out of water? Meh.

  • AHEC

    AHEC Power Plants are cheaper, safer and cleaner than burning fossil fuels. They have the generating capacity to serve consumers and desalinat sea water. The salt waste can be placed in the desert to dry and used during winter on roads for snow and ice removal.

    Charles E. Campbell, Founder & CEO
    Allen Hydro Energy Corporation (AHEC)

  • DiscusBS

    It is established and accepted fact that the transport of water from Sacramento to Southern California costs in energy about 2.6kWh/m3 and that from the Colorado River to Southern California costs about 1.6kWh/m3. Improvements in desalination now have energy costs below 2.0kWh/m3 and monitoring of discharge diffusers in various ocean locations have shown the so called environmental concerns as easily solved. With over half of the cost of desalination tied to permitting and environmental review processes that are completely arbitrary, desal should be become the standard for drinking water supply for the coastal communities.

  • Saratogan

    How about boiling and distilling sea water in a solar array in Death Valley? Electricity and fresh water at the same time.

  • Gene Beley

    I wish the politicians would listen to inventors like Joseph Rizzi of Benicia, CA. He is promoting a natural desalinization method that eliminates nearly every one of the negative factors by placing the facility off shore about 2 miles and one half mile down. This way, the process can use ocean waves for free energy. For more details go to my video of his presentation in Clarksburg at:

    We need more out of the box thinking like this and even offer a $3-$10 million prize for inventors coming up with ways to produce new water.

    California won’t even put up $20 million for Mr. Rizzi to test his natural desalinization that has already been proven in other parts of the world. The politicians have spent more on that for the Bay Delta Conservation lunches for their road show to sell a ridiculous $67 billion 30 mile underground twin tunnel hookup to the Sacramento River that will be very short sighted indeed. It will also be the death of the Delta—not to mention the George Orwell “coequal goals” of taking 140,000 acres of Delta farmers’ lands for the benefit of others in S. California deserts to grow more pistachios and other nut products to export. (The $67 billion cost is a UOP economist’s estimate over the $25 billion lie from BDCP.)

  • Bob Hargrove

    Considering that the fukushima daichi plant dispensed over a trillion bequerels of plutonium into the pacific ocean, I for one won’t be here to drink poison.

  • bereniceweber

    47% of California’s water footprint is associated with meat and diary, and only 4% with household use. The water used to irrigate alfalfa and hay used for livestock feed exceedes the water used for all vegetables, berries, and fruits combined. There are numerous articles asking California, and the planet, to reduce the consumption of animal products and eating a plantbased diet, from the New York Times, United Nations, Scientific American, and the US Geological Water Science School. A typical veggie (soy) burger takes about 42 gallons of water to produce and contains 20g of protein, versus the thristy beef quarter pounder that needs 621 gallons of water and has about 18g of protein. The livestock business is one of the most damaging sectors for the environment, not only water wise.

  • stanley

    Only a huge tax on water use will create immediate results. Jerry, time to act NOW.

  • Clint Sharp

    What if we put these really large machines in the sea off shore and the machines generate a lot of heat. They basically suck in sea water , vaporize it and release it up into the atmosphere. Then it would rain… maybe.

  • Brad Arnold

    I can see clearly that many treasured paradigms will have to change before desalination
    will be practically embraced. The top one is the (ironically) pathological aversion to believing LENR is a non-pathological scientific physical phenomena.

    “LENR has the demonstrated ability to produce excess amounts of energy, cleanly, without hazardous ionizing radiation, without producing nasty waste.” – Dennis Bushnell, Chief Scientist at NASA Langley Research Center

    “Total replacement of fossil fuels for everything but synthetic organic chemistry.” –Dr. Joseph M. Zawodny, NASA

    – See more at:

  • James Fenimore Cooper

    Dear Daniel: permitting could last longer than the drought? How long is that? Do you think it will end? The Governor just said it is climate change driven. Will climate change end? When?

    It is driven by CO2 in the atmosphere and that does not go away for hundreds or thousands of years.

    If the drought is climate change driven it is essentially permanent – right?

    Desal plants run off the grid like Carlsbad cause more global warming because they use fossil fuel to make electricity.

    Nuclear reactors should be used as they can desalinate desalinate millions of gallons of sea water like they have been doing for thousands of crew on US Navy ships for over 60 years.

    The Navy proves nuclear reactors are completely safe because there’s never been a single crew member hurt or died from radiation in those 60 years. Tens of thousands of crew have served on these ships since 1950.

    Admiral Rickover who wisely created our nuclear Navy looked into using the sub reactors in cities for electrical power. But anti nuclear groups stopped this move. Had he succeeded we would not have global warming that is destroying the planet now. We would be like France with 80% of power (electricity) from clean safe nuclear power.

  • Jack Voogt

    Splitting seawater in hydrogen and oxygen by elektrolysis is another alternative to make fresh water. All components are freely available in California’s natural resources. Lots of sun and wind to produce electricity. Lots of coastline to pump seawater to the waterplants. Now all it takes is setting up such a plant. In this set-up there’s a continuous flow of oceanwater from the ocean into the plant, and back to the ocean again. The water that runs back into the ocean is saltier, but not too saturated to kill ocean life. In the plant the water flows continuously through pipes, in which electrodes splits it into hydrogen and oxygen gas. The gasses are transported to chambers where they’re combined to form pure fresh water. This water is too pure to use as drinkingwater, but since the oceanwater is already flowing through the plant, a part of it can be used to be mixed with pure H2O to create a fresh drinking water. That’s my idea, now only some technical minds behind it and some builders. Who joins ?

  • Ray Suelzer

    I’m wondering why we have not tried direct dehumidifcation of the air directly above the ocean. There are currently solar powered dehumidifiers that might be able to be used. If we place the dehumidifiers directly above the ocean it will limit the environmental damage and reduce the amount of work needed to be done to desal, since the collected water will already have been desalinated through natural evaporation. I’m not sure that this would scale, but it’s an interesting concept.

  • DiscusBS

    Since the last significant drought California has doubled its population and permanent crops in the desert. According to the LA Times less than 10% of the illegal immigrants work in agriculture yet agriculture is still attempting to expand, even during the drought. Someone is not getting the message that groundwater is disappearing and land is subsiding. Guess which group that is? Hint they use over 80% of all the water in the state. The southern California coastal counties should be successively weaned from northern California water and this can be done by requiring that they build desal plants. Effective designs are established and can be copied. The intake and discharge issues are nonn-issues. Designs have been monitored all over the world and most have “no” negative impact. Pick a diffuser design that is acceptable and require it. Don’t triple the costs of the systems with public hearing after public hearing and hundreds of committees. Get er done!

  • DMcD

    Perhaps this new development might help:

  • Samantha Holman

    Why isn’t anyone talking about the Hyperion in El Segundo which is a
    waste water treatment facility which recycles 500 million gallons of
    water a day, but because a lack of places to take the water, they dump
    recycled water back into the ocean! There is only one water recycling
    plant (West Basin in El Segundo) that takes a tiny fraction of their
    water and can recycle it back to almost drinkable water. But the fact is
    that almost 500 million gallons of recycled water (which takes tons of
    energy to create) is thrown back into sea water. The water from the
    Hyperion is more desalinated than sea water, will take less energy to
    filter. We need to be relocating this water, not wasting it!

  • cats1cowboy

    Re: ‘An official at a smaller desal facility told me it took $25,000 of electricity per month to produce enough water for 1,200 homes’
    But solar energy is free, isn’t it?

  • cats1cowboy

    California is pumping billions of gallons of water into the ocean to save a couple of buckets full of delta smelt and also stealing water from neighboring States.

  • Greg Majersky

    Desalination requires alot of energy, which in turn requires alot of water, and produces toxic waste in the form of concentrated brine.

  • 16 TONS

    solar distillation is a pretty basic approach that is scaleable – solar superheating can increase throughput.

  • Greg Majersky

    Consider capturing urban storm drainage:

    1. Storm drainage is polluted water. road salt, nimal and human waste, car fluids, break dust, lawn chemicals, soil, etc.
    2. This polluted storm water enters nature via the storm drain system, and is not treated.
    Our commercial and residential usage extracts water from surface and
    subsurface sources in the local area of each urban region.
    4. In
    more than a few areas of the world and the US, aquifers are nearing a
    level where we cannot recover water. Such is the case for Molson Coors’
    facilities in England and Canada, as well as Coke and other beverage
    makers in India. These are isolated cases, but the problem is
    widespread, as we can now see in California

    5. By August of this
    year, the BLM may restrict access to Lake Mead because of its low
    levels. This will affect Las Vegas and downstream users.

    6. By
    collecting urban storm drainage for commercial and domestic use, we can
    keep polluted water out of natural sources, and by using urban storm
    drainage, we can reduce our usage of natural water sources.

    Two examples: Ft Murray Canada receives roughly 25% of the water
    consumed by Suncor’s Alberta tar sands operations. That is 25% less
    water removed from the Athabasca river AND no polluted water entering
    the Athabasca. Mumbai, India, receives about 1 billion more gallons of
    rainfall than total industrial and residential consumption. And using
    that water would keep dirty urban runoff out of the ocean.

    Think about the jobs created by replumbing the world’s cities and the
    treatment systems for each industrial user, with the unused water
    re-injected into aquifers for use by urban residents.

    9. This
    plus “toilet to tap” is a powerful combination for conserving natural
    waters, creating jobs, and protecting our environment.

  • Mike Carey

    A nuclear power plant the size of the one that has been prematurely closed in San Onofre, and is costing BILLIONS to decommission, could provide enough power to desalinate 2 to 3 MILLION ACRE FEET of water for California. That’s a big part of all the water Los Angeles receives from the Colorado River.

    Residents like me have cut back on our usage, but we only use FOUR PER CENT of the state’s water. Still, I’m watering the garden one day a week instead of three, for whatever good that will do.

    California needs to seriously think about our future energy and water use policies. People around the world do things the way they have always been done, until we get hit with the consequences. During a visit to Costa Rica a few years ago we learned that their rice was being grown with “dry farming” methods despite their huge annual rainfall. Just as ironically, California farmers in the delta grow their rice the traditional Japanese way in flooded fields, despite our naturally arid climate that is getting dryer every year. California also grows a lot of water hungry alfalfa for animal feed. Where does it go? Well, a lot of it gets shipped to places like China that doesn’t have enough water to grow their own feed, but IS building nuclear power plants as fast as they can.

    That’s where water and energy policy intersect – where resources are scarce. We’ve tried all the fad fixes for clean energy, but it just isn’t having an effect fast enough to cut our carbon emissions. France nearly decarbonized their economy in just over a decade after the oil embargo in the 1970’s, so a serious impact can be realized when we have no other choice, and I’m afraid that that is where we are now. It’s time to change our water and energy policies in California if we hope to preserve a thriving economy beyond this decade.

  • Nils Peterson

    Time to be talking about diminishing returns. First we got water straight from the river, then we got it from a water system bring river water from elsewhere. Now we get it by removing the salt. Each phase is more expensive (diminishing returns for the dollar) which means that more of each person’s money (effort) goes to the simple act of having water, so less will be available for other things. Perhaps we should be talking about the value of ecosystem services and valuing them correctly so that companies didn’t pollute and destroy ecosystem services in the name of profit.

    • Ellen McGowen

      Perhaps we should be talking about limiting population growth before we have increasing mortality rates and declining life expectancies.

  • sal

    Can anybody tell me what is the difference between desalination,and the process that allows us to make table salt?and wich one is more expensive, and why?it is said that the salt that comes out will be dumped at sea,isnt this the same one that we use for consumption?then there is distilled water,where water is evaporated, leaving all the minerals and salt at the bottom, and the rest is pure water………..too expensive?

  • Maenad

    $20 per month! Hah! Ratepayers here are already on the hook for $7 million for their failure of a slant well. Our water bills will be more than our house payments. Burnett is shilling for the hospitality industry who get favorable rates while residents pay and pay and pay.

  • dash_bannon

    Here’s an odd thought, couldn’t the brine be converted to a type of road salt that could be sold to states that need road salt? It could be one way of paying for the cost of desalination.

  • Reverse osmosis is fine for big energy intensive plants- how about passive small to large solar plants: enclosed greenhouse units with a cooling coil to precipitate out fresh water; or using the spectacular temp differential of deep seawater (2C under 2000 ft) to create precipitation stations 500M inland to harvest the moist ocean winds or to precipitate out low pressure enclosed solar heated water. Something like that could, with minimal energy footprint, produce continuous moderate amounts of fresh water. Test plants have been running happily for 20 something years in Hawaii. OTEC (Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion) plants using this temp difference can actually produce energy (not very well) as well as water, so they can be self sustaining

  • art laramee

    One of the problems Americans have (not exclusively) is the need for instant gratification. So if a solution doesn’t fix it immediately, it should be trashed. Desalination may be costly, but so is running out of water. It takes more electricity. OK, so increase electricity generation, after all running out of water is a disaster whose cost is incalculable. While describing desalination as killing roe, those using this argument ignore the technique of using natural filtration of sand described elsewhere in the article. Technology evolves with use and drawbacks to desalination will be addressed and over time improved on as long as the private market is allowed to be involved. We have a tendency to do nothing while struggling with difficult trade offs until we get to the point where our backs are up against the wall and then we make decisions that are too late and trade offs are ignored because of the emergency. Instead of analysis paralysis, we need pragmatic leaders who are more interested in getting things done as opposed to being quoted on the evening news.

  • Mike Oyeah

    gonna be hard to get water from pacific ocean in another yr or so with all the radiation from fukushima leaking into it

  • bfg

    All the objections I read to desalinization are based on current technology. With wave generation we could power desalinization at very l,ow cost and little environmental impact. I’m sure we could develop other ways to do this as well. Where is American ingenuity?

  • marlizam

    Hmmm. Wonder if anybody is concerned about the radiation in the water that is still being dumped from Fukushima. . . .

  • Roger

    Illustration is pretty wasteful. The salt can be useful and not just pumped back in to the ocean. I would imagine that the osmosis process could be changed to a solar/heat process. As far as the cost? I’m pretty sure it’s more cost effective to provide the state with clean water instead of a high speed rail system. (just sayin’)

  • godsmotive

    So don’t solve the problem…continue to get in your own way California…die of thirst. Either shut up complaining about the politics of desalination or just let it dry up and blow away….you think some smelt fish is more important than the people anyway…so you get what’s coming.

  • MrSmithInDC

    Liberalism is a mental disorder.

  • MikeCluj

    …what are we waiting people? Which part of the equation we do not understand? Get additional energy from sun (solar and mirror to tower). Place marine current turbines and wave energy collectors, use a combination of condensate and pressure desalinization. Use the brine for a multitude of chemical scopes.

  • Upnorth

    Use solar to power. Desalination of brine to collect salt for winter road use and sell salt to recoup cost. What about using salt in food preservation? Returning water through turbines that generate power also. Wave power from the oceans natural forces. And the solar desalization sounds good too. Solar panel roads also.

  • Beth Hessler

    Desalination should be the answer to the huge predicted water shortages around the world, and if you’re listening all you Billionaires out there, if you want to invest in something that is truly beneficial to mankind, get these desalination plants going. They’ll employ people who need jobs, and alleviate suffering for humans and animals around the globe who’s suffering is due in whole or in part to the inability to obtain clean fresh water. Desalination should be accompanied by research and investment in national and even global water pipeline grids, with the goal of moving water from where there is too much, to where there is too little.
    Desalination and water pipelines could become as common as turning on a water faucet within the next two decades. Come on all you creative, inventive and investor types — let’s get moving on this. If water is a necessary utility, it’s to your advantage to be the first on the scene with the cutting edge technology to win this battle with global warming, be it natural, man made or both.

  • Mark Mitchell

    How about using four things that are wasted for the energy, the gases from land fills, the waves from the ocean the sun and the wind? using all these sources would lower the cost quite a bit. I Live in the north and think they need to do as much as possible to help deal with the drought.

  • Welldigger

    I am not from California but I do work in the water industry and like someone else posted, catching water before it reaches the ocean would seem to be the best idea. The company I work for recently did some work on the radial collector wells in Eureka Ca. on the Madd river. The water district there has rights to 60 mgd a day of water and not enough demand to use it. It seems to me that if there is that big of a demand for water there has to be a way to pump it from the north to the south. If they can put oil and gas lines across the country they should be able to put in pipe lines for water. The best part of the water captured by collector wells is the water is pulled from the aquifer below the river and it naturally filters the water and has little to no effect on the surrounding habitat. Just a thought ! Lol

  • tom

    Aruba use a desal plant for all it;s water and it’s delicious

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  • Aleksander Adamowski

    How about the wave-powered “desalination ducks” technology invented in UK in 2006:

    Burnett says they explored a wide range of options but did not consider the most promising and sustainable one?

  • Wayne Koppa

    Much of Southeast California is a desert. Turn it into a solar cell power plant.

  • Jacob

    I don’t really care what California does, but please stay in California. People in Arizona are sick of uppity Californians coming over here and messing things up, polluting the way they did before they left California.

  • Ron Sheppard

    If the process were actually done underground at around 100 feet, it could provide gravity fed pressure = to 1 pound per foot below the source which could help curb energy costs to pump water through the desal membranes. I’d be curious to look at some of the plans and see what the engineers have come up with. I don’t know what the plant sites will allow but the deeper they could go and install the membranes, the more efficient the process could be.

  • Robert Thaler

    The answer is; if we quit forgetting about our Creator, He will quit forgetting about us, simple as that! Remember, He created science (universe)

  • Dewbert

    Hmm… if only there was a way to defray some of the desalination costs by selling off the byproduct. Nah… that’s crazy. No one would buy salt. What would they do with it? Put it on their food? Put it on icey roads? Silly me. What was I thinking?

  • n0n0

    Incorporate the brine for use in deicing, or another application where large quantities of salt is required.

    Why do I live on a planet full of morons?

  • Frank Dalla

    What many fail to consider is that there is considerable difference between having the ability to subsidize the water supply to make up for water shortages, (Drought) and constant production because the plants exist. We have a water provision system that during the past has provided us with water… This shortage isn’t cast in stone, and there are surely wet years in our future, so consider desalination as simply a reliable option to avoid major future economic loss, and not as a permanent replacement supply for all of our needs.

  • Peter Bonavich

    In Israel, I believe about 30% of needed water comes from desalination. Yet you do not mention that experience or examine the methods used or issues encountered.

    • Bob TheBuilder

      EXACTLY – this is a typical liberal reported that wants to push his agenda rather than actually research FACTS for an article. That’s what i considered “jounalism” these days. All “journaists” should be called AGENDA PUSHERS, not reporters. This article is full of his agenda. Why even mention killing fish, when it’s not even an issue and a three yeard old could solve the problem with a screen. It’s more important in California to give BILLIONS to Illegal aliens than the peopel that actually pay taxes in the state.

      • cyclezealot

        Look above to my response. I am liberal and I research my positions.Or attempt to. ts

        • Warren Pugh

          So that’s the problem.

      • Warren Pugh

        Bob, that sure was a highlight for the press in this election. They made a fortune.

    • shawn Mc

      just proves they really don’t want to solve the problem.

      considering all the approvals that will be needed to set up such a facility i bet its all about who ill be getting their proper share

    • John Friipp, Jr.

      We are in Georgia, U.S.A and I am interested in your experience and methods!!

  • albeit

    What we need in California is a market for water that prices water enough to pay for what it will cost in the future to replace it, not just the cost of transporting the water.

    If we only had a million gallons that we can transport for a penny a gallon (just making these prices up), but once that cheap supply is gone, we’ll have to buy water for a dollar a gallon, prices need to reflect that future reality.

    This is true whether the water is managed by a government or many private individuals have rights to use a water source. They’re all only paying the cost to get it out of the ground.

    The cost of getting water out of the ground is way below the real cost to replace once its gone. They should be more or less the same.

  • Bob TheBuilder

    Killing sea life – REALLY that can be solved, cost of electricity – ever heard of solar power, what to do with the “extra salt” SELL It to the east coast states who use it to salt the roads DUH !. Lastly if we can give BILLION to fight a Muslim war and a MILLION dollars a day to find two escaped convicts, then I thinjk we have the monet to spend on a state of the art desal plant. Peropl NEED to eat and drink, peopel do not need to fight Muslim wars….or spend BILLIONS on a bullet train to nowhere. How about you report on THAT.

    • I agree on the cost of electricity being a non-issue, what with solar panels being so cheap. Slap them onto the pipeline and I’ll wager there will be enough electricity left over to get fed back into the grid.

  • stevesharkman

    This idiot has dedicated his life to climate change?
    he’s wasted his life.
    man can’t control the climate.
    this is supposed to be a progressive. someone forward thinking.
    but he’s not.
    liberalism is his religion.
    he’s holding back progress.
    fire him.

    • Neal William

      Are you denying that climate change is at all anthropogenic?

      • stevesharkman

        the climate is changing.
        it’s always been changing.
        billions of years before man was here.
        and the climate will be changing billions of years after man is gone.
        what idiot actually thinks man can change the climate?

        • Neal William

          get with the times man. there isnt a single college professor in this country teaching what youre saying. the evidence is overwhelming you should take some time to read up.

          • stevesharkman

            are you saying man can control the climate?
            you need to read up.

          • MechMan

            Don’t know if I’d say the evidence s overwhelming, but it’s there. Climate change is still a hypothesis, not a theory.

          • Bart A Noll

            college professors regurgitate what is taught them, or they ‘research’ the works of others who may have an agenda. It’s impossible to know the truth anymore

        • Bill Ackerman

          Nobody’s denying the climate is changing, & always has been. What they’re saying is that 8+ billion people on the planet generate enough heat/energy to superimpose additional forces on the evolutionary climate change that has always existed. The trouble with (the waning number of) climate change deniers is that they always paint it as “either/or,” which it’s not.

      • stevesharkman

        man can’t control the climate.
        never have.
        never will.

        • onceproudamerican

          This is the fact the climate cultists refuse to accept…. Individual human freedom is incompatible with their agenda as well! Only poopy ideas require coercive force to get people to adopt them 🙂

  • FrancisChalk

    Like all Leftist, environmental wackos, the mayor of Carmel has no interest in solving the water shortage problem, or any other “so-called” “Climate Change” problem. If he did, he would be a huge proponent of desalination as the extremely minor problems he identity have all been very well solved by the many countries who already rely on desalinated water to survive. Leftist environmentalists ONLY care about advancing Marxism and to do that they must institute their totalitarian control over all aspects of society. The California drought is a very useful tool for the Marxists. The last thing any of them want is for the drought to go away.

    • shawn Mc

      what other countries implement this on a large scale ?

  • Jst1man

    Ha ha ha.. I find this article so hypocritical. This whole thing is about how it will kill off marine life or Where it will go. Money is not the issue in California where will they put it is. I have lived in Cali all my life and one thing I know for certain is that Well to Do people trying to save the environment from desalinization is asinine. If you were so well to do then tell me why you are not in China putting down their pollution? There is always going to be something we can save or something we can do different. But this is the problem with California 2/3 of Northern California’s water is going South and guess what the South doesn’t pay anymore than we do. In fact, the last I heard we are paying more in the North. Not to mention WE are rationing water that we shouldn’t SoCal is why we are rationing. Figure that into the equation.

    This article is short sighted. I have said for years the best way to make a Desalinization Plant is to make it pay for itself.
    So I said all that but here is a solution. The base IDEA:

    1 fuel, 5 resources

    Water is the fuel, Hydrogen and YES no matter what anyone says Hydrogen is cheap. Everyone make it now at home!
    Water is the 1st part of this equation.
    Power is the 2nd.
    3, 4, & 5 are Hydrogen, Oxygen, Sodium.

    All of these products produce sales and can be self sustaining.

    So why does EVERYONE miss my idea? Simple, because it make sense. Water is a MULTI-SOURCE! Why does everyone think of just water! And on top of all that you have the Agriculture in California, 1 of our main products. You don’t see the DOA pushing for better water in California. Dams, Open and Closed Reservoirs , Aqueducts open and closed are not the solution, but a hinderance to the water so it can reach natural location in California.

    We in California are some of the SMARTEST in the World. Even Elon Musk puts down Hydrogen. Which is a shame since it is a clean solution to OUR PROBLEMS!

  • Greg Ballantyne

    Of course desalination will play a part in both the present and the future. The main trouble with desal in the amount of energy required, and usually it’s not clean energy. We WILL be making the switch to clean energy as time goes on, because despite the ravings and whimpering of psycho lunatics like FrancisChalk and stevesharkman, SCIENCE IS REAL. These drooling trolls are not scientists, have no scientific knowledge, and no scientific interests. Any time you read that sort of post you can be assured that it came from an ignorant uneducated slobbering psychotic.

  • ricardoh

    We have in this country an abundance of natural gas. Pumps for desalinization can be run with engines that run on natural gas and the only electricity they would need is for lights.

    • And that can be provided by solar panels with batteries along the lines of what Tesla is providing its customers.

    • Warren Pugh

      Love the bluebird, but we have solar too.

      • ricardoh

        Great, Warren that post was a year old. Haven’t changed my mind though.

  • r garcia

    let’s all be very clear about the current drought in california. If this drought continues for, god forbid, another five or more years there will not be enough water to sustain the population and agricultural requirements of this state. What is needed to be done, but not discussed sufficiently is several new desalination plants up and down california. Never mind the cost or even certain environmental problems related to marine life; it is a matter of life or death. Are californians willing to pay a much higher cost for desalination? The resounding answer is YES and believe me they will pay it with a big smile on their face. (Remember I said it is a matter of life or death). I rest my case

  • Paul Esterguard

    why not use evaporation to turn the brine into salt and sell it to the snowy northeast as a way to recover some of the expense ? Salt brine was the major reason Syracuse NY grew .

  • Jennifer Anthony

    Can’t the brine instead of being thrown back into the ocean, be used to generate electricty enough to run the desal plant?

  • Invasive Species

    The strangest thing to me about the desalinization debate (besides all the wackos commenting here) is that wastewater recycling is never mentioned. It’s way cheaper and easier and would be faster to build. Orange County is already doing it with great success.

    Think about it this way: We take wastewater and tertiary treat it to almost drinking water quality, then send it out into the ocean. With desal, we then take salt water out of the ocean and spend a ton of money treating it and getting the salt out. If we take the tertiary treated water and clean it up that final bit, we have perfectly good drinking water, for half the price or less than desal, and without the worry of intake pipes and everything else.

    • Texan Independence .

      It’s because many people don’t like drinking other people’s…. well… you know. Not that strange. And there is also the fact that you can’t filter out 100% of all the the psycho-pills people are taking, even the morning after and other drugs can’t be filtered out completely (and this is believed to be causing infertility problems worldwide). The hormones from those pills (especially progestins) are causing all sorts of problems (progestins cause breast cancer for example). So if you ever wear an anti-breast cancer lapel, think again about advocating for recycling human water. Now, if there were ways to only recycle the water from say, the dishwasher or laundry and 100% exclude the human-related water, then that would be acceptable.

      • LiuKangBakingaPie

        So just use reclaimed wastewater for agriculture?

        • Warren Pugh

          That too, but the demand is way beyond that balance. Again, we have or may have no choice. According to ???? the oceans are supposed to rise with climate change. Desal will have to work like hell. Time do dock farmers for their share of water consumption>..especially since they export our water in agricultural products. Yeah, I know, I’m crazy , , , ,thirst anyone?

    • Warren Pugh

      Look to the middle east while you are at it. We can learn from each other because we have no choice. Wackos like myself care. The wackos are those who do not understand those who compromise fish havens, rivers and streams for barren stream beds. On the east you have hundreds of what are becoming dry farmers exporting much of their crops to the Orient. They assume, wrongfully, that with desal they can recklessly consume more water some of which belongs to thirsty tribes and some consumer efficient palefaces. Reuse of water in Saudi Arabia is a huge factor in shear efficiency.

      However we claim or reclaim water is not a factor. Reminder. As earth is now, Mars once was. As Mars is now earth may become. Environmentalists rarely participate in the problem solving stage. Like the ACLU their hands are in our pockets while their water supply is disappearing. Most disappointing? Our federal government makes it possible for these leaches to take us to court and we pay the bill.

  • cyclezealot

    Why is desalination such a mystery to Californians. We have operating models in Israel, Australia, Saudi Arabia . Environmentalists question the effects of brine pollution to our shores. The results are in , in the 3 countries listed above. Certainly environmentalists have studied this very issue where desal plants are in operation. It is not a mystery . Has Israel’s plants polluted the Mediterranean or not. ? All we have to do is ask. The science is already out there.

    • onceproudamerican

      Modern ‘water supply’ is about CONTROL….that why they had all the ‘rain barrel bans’. The earth’s surface is 2/3’s covered by water and there’s a ‘shortage’? NO!

      • cyclezealot

        Should you find yourself abandoned at sea, I suggest you don’t drink from that abundance. That abundance to which you speak does not water California’s vintners . Instead the West’s dryness threatens our country’s ability to produce good quality wines. ( How ironic- California has among the country’s most fertile, yet the inability to water those crops.) The Central Valley has sunken 2-3 feet thanks to vanishing aquifers. ) It could. I would be against desalination should I think its power needs and brine wastes ruin the Planet. But, look to the experience of Perth , Australia. Perhaps, science and technology might save us. Renewable energy and proper brine disposal techniques have created success stories in Australia.

        • Warren Pugh

          Yer gonna get in trouble with them thar attorneys coming up with bonafide detail like that.:)

      • Warren Pugh

        Love it.

    • PeterB

      Are you sure the science that is out there hasn’t been spun to meet somebody’s agenda?

      • Warren Pugh

        Peter, wow. If it isn’t here we are blind. Mr. Gore has taken care of that. Another attorney. I reckon he doesn’t drink water either.

    • Joe Digma

      yes, other countries are successfully doing it, American environmentalist stop us here, but other countries will not stop doing these things and these plants can move to Mexico just like other manufacturing has done–worst thing though, much higher damage to earth( since no/minimal regulations in Mexico) but we in USA lose jobs and earth is worst off for it. If we allowed to build here, at least there would be some Environmental protections but environmentalist don’t understand this. We should have lot more desal plants here in CA but that will not happen

      • Warren Pugh

        Yep. Reminds me. Environmentalist’s crops is American cash. Time for tort reform. Oh yes. We bought out loggers and commercial fishermen. Time to buy out a million or so ‘mesothelioma’ lawyers. Retrain them to work.

  • Restless

    Why return the salts back to the ocean? There you could have two markets. And electricity is far from an issue, look into thorium powered nuclear energy. Literally millions of times more efficient than any chemical process, and clean energy too with none of the risks of uranium. It was in the states in the 60s until the nixon administration.
    I also agree with other users who’ve mentioned desalination projects in other parts of the world. I haven’t looked at that myself, so would be curious to what they do. Would’ve made a great article if that were included too!

  • Brian

    Why? Cost. All these plant discussed are theory. Farmers have been getting tier water for free.

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  • Cindy

    desalination: converting seawater into drinking water is a good idea to solve water problem of California and continue supply of water to majority peoples.

  • Misael Alicea Quinones

    The Navy uses desalination plants on a daily basis to provide water for the crew. I served in the Navy for 8 years myself as a Machinist Mate and I operated the Flash type desal units. It is more than possible to use salt water to take care of the California drought problem. Any one who says it’s not possible is a retard and doesn’t know what the f$$$ they’re talking about. I also worked at a very well kown pharmaceutical and a Cancer research facility where they made WFI water which is even much more pure, for medical purposes. So, I know both, desalinization and Reverse Osmosis processes.

  • Mark Fogarty

    Build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything.

  • Mark Fogarty

    Certainly don’t build desalination plants that would give you water to drink in places where there is no water.

  • Henning Heinemann

    Desalinization is the only answer globally, and to make it practical and economical, it needs to be combined with the production of hydrogen and the beginning of the hydrogen economy. Once stored as hydrogen, water can be delivered along with electricity and delivered through various means including self buoying flight with no land based infrastructure. Not only that, the savings induced when fiat currency and usury in general is made irrelevant when anyone with a solar panel, windmill…, and some non-potable water can literally ‘make money’ producing the hydrogen supply that backs a ‘solid currency’ capital supply. The “cost of money” becomes the cost of producing money and no more.

    Why we’ve neglected the hydrogen economy for the last 20 years since it was promised to us by every media outlet has been amazing to me. I have been trying to get a start at it, but there s no media interest to help drive the idea. Even when shown how to help the refugee situation, it is still ignored.!AoXPlyjz_r8dgVUqpwyQxSFSi31h

  • anita

    Finally, Saudi Arabia has been doing this for years! Why would California have to endue droughts and wildfires when they are sitting next to the Pacific Ocean? They say it’s expensive, but look at the money wasted rebuilding homes after fires and crops lost in agriculture due to lack of water!

  • Ryan Stinnett

    My first thought is they can simply make sea salt to sell with all the salt extracted and make some money back… no?

  • Moralunequivocation

    We need to get on this now. Dump the fake bullet train, that’ll fund a couple more Desal plants. Get Tesla on board, power the plants with solar and natural gas. Use this to save the California Delta, and subsequently bio-diversity across much of California while restoring natural habitat and supplying water to a growing population.

    Here’s something I need some explaining, Sea salt is a valuable commodity. Why is brine “waste” in a Desal plant? Salt farms effectively burn off the valuable water for the valuable salt, the Desal is dumping valuable salt for the valuable water, why not keep the salt and MAKE THIS PROFITABLE?

    Question 2: It is possible to build structures that separate water from salt without any power at all. While I imagine this is a much slower process, is there any economic viability in building them in conjunction with these much more power hungry designs? For example if 10% of the water could be derived without using any power, that would be like a 10% discount on the power costs, which would ultimately be a lot of money, even if looking at it from the outset seemed wholly insufficient for demand.

  • Zakarias

    I find it funny and kinda scary that no one here in these comments are saying the real problem… It’s not a water problem. It is not a salt problem. It is not a power problem. It is a population problem, or in the very least it will rapidly become one. There is only so much water that can possibly exist at any given time with people consuming it. double that, triple , quadruple?…. Now, as a species, We use a lot of water for different things, a good gallon of it (or two) is probably wasted. In times to come, We ( the species ) will consume more than the earth can produce. Mankind’s first thing to do when we get a new tech, is to abuse it, before we develop a respect for it. But we can’t make that mistake here, once the water is gone, its gone. And the Desal is a good tech, and it IS a good Idea, can we really trust humanity to actually use it responsibly? yeah I know Israel and other locations have it and do it well, yes, but the whole world? and manage it well? no. and we can’t simply tell people not to procreate can we? So the World populations will still grow and create a heavy burden on the desal plants, and it will take its toll on the environment, And then it won’t matter how much water we can get now, or how much it costs, because the cost of losing it far outweighs the benefits. Of course, If somebody has an answer to this conundrum, then by all means go ahead with desal. However, if we do not, it is a planetwide act of suicide.

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Daniel Potter is a reporter for KQED Science. Before that, he worked at Nashville Public Radio for six years. He’s gathered tape for The New York Times, contributed to a growing list of podcasts, and done national features for NPR on everything from bats to meningitis. He tweets at @hellodanpo.

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