Tuesday, January 28, 2014

To desalinate, or not to desalinate

San Jose Mercury News/Science and Environment/Paul Rogers, 1/25/14.  "California drought: past dry periods have lasted more than 200 years, scientists say."

Charles Meyer Desalination Plant
Drought for how long? Water's got to come from somewhere.
Does the state have a longer term plan, other than hope it will rain?
 ...."California in 2013 received less rain than in any year since it became a state in 1850. And at least one Bay Area scientist says that based on tree ring data, the current rainfall season is on pace to be the driest since 1580 -- more than 150 years before George Washington was born. The question is: How much longer will it last?

If a drought lasted decades, the state could always build dozens of desalination plants, which would cost billions of dollars, said law professor Barton "Buzz" Thompson, co-director of Stanford University's Woods Institute for the Environment.  Saudi Arabia, Israel and other Middle Eastern countries depend on desalination, but water from desal plants costs roughly five times more than urban Californians pay for water now. Thompson said that makes desal projects unfeasible for most of the state now, especially when other options like recycled wastewater and conservation can provide more water at a much lower cost.  But in an emergency, price becomes no object."  Read article.

Related, a city desalination plant not usedABC/KEYT news channel 3, 1/22/14, video, 55 seconds.  "Restarting desalination Plant would cost $20 million, Santa Barbara plant in mothballs, not considered for use in current drought." City of Santa Barbara/Desalination. "The Charles Meyer Desalination Plant is in long-term storage mode and is not currently producing drinking water for the City. The City constructed the reverse osmosis seawater desalination facility as an emergency water supply in response to the severe drought from 1986 to 1991. Two neighboring water purveyors, Goleta and Montecito water districts, participated in the project but have since opted out of the permanent facility. Due to sufficient freshwater supplies since 1991, the facility remains in long-term storage mode for reactivation within two years in the case of prolonged and severe drought."   Note: the photograph of Santa Barbara desalination plant is from the city of Santa Barbara description. 

Posted by Kathy Meeh


Anonymous said...

Much better idea than the stupid bullet train that probably will never happen.

Hutch said...

Agree, we should dump the 80 billion dollar bullet train and put the money into our water infrastructure, reclaiming rain water, increasing capacity, fixing levees etc.. And while we're at it set up an earthquake early warning system like they have in Japan.

The Local Libertarian said...

De-salinated water costs 5 times the cost of naturally available fresh water (rough estimate).

Most people in Pacifica won't be able to afford that. Most people in SF bay area won't be able to afford that. If this drought continues, we could see some interesting things happen.

Not a NCCWD employee said...

Five times as much is a pretty high estimate.

But even at that, water is the most important thing in life and amazingly cheap. Right now, if you were to use 200 gallons a day, you'd be paying NCCWD about half a penny per gallon. Or if you factor in the fixed meter charge, you could call it .78 cents a gallon.

If that were to go up five times and we were paying 2 or 3 cents per gallon, big deal! There is nothing else on this planet that you can buy for that cheap.

I might have to cancel my $150 cable bill if water rates went up five times, but that'd be a freaking blessing.

Anonymous said...

A little rain must fall.

The Local Libertarian said...

@ Not a NCCWD employee

It takes years to build de-salination plants. And it requires power infrastructure to back it up.

When the food prices start being affected that is when you see the real cost of water.

When tax revenues fall and regional economies fail due to falling agricultural output due to unavailability of water is when you'll see the real cost of water.

SF Bay area is somewhat sheltered. But if things do get bad enough, I won't be surprised if people in central valley want to fight with SF Bay area for water.

Lets hope some rain comes our way. In the meanwhile, its probably good sense to start conserving on water anyway.

Unwashed in Vallemar said...

No water today in Vallemar!
NCCWD says there's a main break at Reina del Mar and Hiawatha, and that it'll be a few hours, at least, before it's fixed.
I just knew I shouldn't have waited to shower today.

Tom Clifford said...

As a builder My biggest worry is that N.C.C.W.D. or S.F. will place a moratorium or limit on new water hooks-ups. I have seen it happen during past droughts

Anonymous said...


Did you pay the water bill?

Anonymous said...

How's that infrastructure working?

Anonymous said...

In other unpublished nor talked about Pacifica News. The editor over at Patch got fired last week.

Anonymous said...

More completely reported, most Patch editors all over the country have been fired. Hundreds, estimates run from two-thirds to 90% of the 600 Patch employees have been let go.

Anonymous said...

Crista Bigue of El Granada was the PATCH editor for both Half Moon Bay and Pacifica until last week. The last two Patch postings have two different editors,an Autumn Johnson and a Shelia Sanchez.

Anonymous said...

January 2014 AOL sold Patch to Hale Global. Lots of layoffs. Time will tell what it becomes under Hale's business plan.