Too often, entrenched conflicts that pit water user against water user block efforts to secure a sustainable, equitable, and democratic water future in California. Striking a balance involves art and science, compassion and flexibility, and adherence to science and the law. Felicia Marcus is a public servant unknown to many Californians. But as she concludes her tenure as chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, we owe her a debt of gratitude for consistently reaching for that balance.
As Californians, I believe we must look west to the Pacific Ocean, where seawater desalination offers a proven, climate change-resilient solution. No longer do we need verification from Israel, the Middle East and Australia, where desalination facilities have literally helped save lives and fend off debilitating droughts due of climate change. Now, we can look much closer to home — in San Diego.
Top Monterey County officials met in early 2011 to discuss ways to dump the Marina Coast Water District from the regional desalination project, raising questions about the county’s efforts to make the three-pronged project partnership work and potentially affecting civil litigation aimed at unraveling the failed proposal.
“Former Monterey County water board member Steve Collins has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the county, California American Water and top officials in connection with his dual role on the failed regional desalination project.”
“Timothy Quinn is with the Association of California Water Agencies, or ACWA. He says planned Central Valley water recycling projects and a water desalination project in San Diego are welcome, but he says conservation is equally important.”
“The crews are building what boosters say represents California’s best hope for a drought-proof water supply: the largest ocean desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere. The $1 billion project will provide 50 million gallons of drinking water a day for San Diego County when it opens in 2016.”
“Thanks to improved technology, turning ocean water into freshwater is becoming more economically feasible. And a looming global water crisis may make it crucial to the planet’s future.
‘Whenever a drought exacerbates freshwater supplies in California, people tend to look toward the ocean for an answer,” said Jennifer Bowles, executive director of the California-based Water Education Foundation.’”
“The Bureau of Reclamation is seeking proposals from universities, water utilities, private industry and others to address a broad range of desalting and water purification needs. Reclamation is interested in research that will have national significance and where the benefits of the technology will be widespread.”
“Quietly whirring away in a dusty field in the Central Valley is a shiny solar energy machine that may someday solve many of California’s water problems.
“It’s called the WaterFX solar thermal desalination plant, and it has been turning salty, contaminated irrigation runoff into ultra-pure liquid for nearly a year for the Panoche Water and Drainage District.”
Aquafornia’s Water Word of the Week from sister site Aquapedia is Desalination. Aquapedia, the Water Education Foundation’s interactive online water encyclopedia, contains vetted information from an objective source.
According to an excerpt from the Aquapedia entry, “Recurrent droughts and uncertainties about future water supplies have led several California communities to look to saltwater for supplemental supplies through a process known as desalination.
“A judge ruled the failed regional desalination project agreements can still be challenged, but only by the Monterey County Water Resources Agency and not California American Water.
“Marina Coast Water District, a former regional project partner with Cal Am and the county, has alleged its partners should pay its project costs, estimated at $15 million to $18 million, because they backed out of valid project agreements.”
“The giant solar receiver installed on a wheat field here in California’s agricultural heartland slowly rotates to track the sun and capture its energy. The 377-foot array, however, does not generate electricity but instead creates heat used to desalinate water.
“Besieged by drought and desperate for new sources of water, California towns are ramping up plans to convert salty ocean water into drinking water to quench their long-term thirst. The plants that carry out the high-tech “desalination” process can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but there may be few other choices for the parched state.”