Desalination began to lose its urgency among Californians and their public officials two years ago, after the drought-busting winter of 2016-17, when heavy rain and snow ended dry conditions in most of the state.
About 20% of the world’s population has no access to safe drinking water, and this number will increase as the population continues to grow and global freshwater sources continue to decline. The worst-affected areas are the arid and semiarid regions of Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.
UNESCO has reported that the freshwater shortfall worldwide will rise to 500 trillion gallons/yr by 2025. They expect water wars to break out in the near-future. The World Economic Forum says that shortage of fresh water may be the primary global threat in the next decade.
But 500 trillion gallons/year only requires about 1,500 seawater desalination plants like the ones being built in California and Saudi Arabia. At a billion dollars a pop, that’s a lot cheaper than war and starvation.
Each day 100 million gallons of seawater are pushed through semi-permeable membranes to create 50 million gallons of water that is piped to municipal users. Carlsbad, which became fully operational in 2015, creates about 10 percent of the fresh water the 3.1 million people in the region use, at about twice the cost of the other main source of water.
Expensive, yes, but vital for the fact that it is local and reliable. “Drought is a recurring condition here in California,” said Jeremy Crutchfield, water resources manager at the San Diego County Water Authority. “We just came out of a five-year drought in 2017. The plant has reduced our reliance on imported supplies, which is challenging at times here in California. So it’s a component for reliability.”
The Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, named for a former mayor, is owned by Orion Water Partners LLC, the joint venture between Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners and Brookfield Infrastructure Partners affiliate Poseidon.
As 2018 was winding down, one of California’s leading newspapers suggested, via a front-page, banner-headlined article, that the drought that had plagued the state for much of this decade may be returning.
Citing long-running efforts to secure a new Monterey Peninsula water supply and the state-imposed deadline for reducing unauthorized water usage, the county Planning Commission approved California American Water’s desalination plant north of Marina on Wednesday.
By a 6-4 vote, the commission backed a use permit for the proposed 6.4 million gallon per day desal plant. The plant is designed to provide about 40 percent of the Peninsula’s planned new water supply to offset the state’s Carmel River pumping cutback order set to take full effect at the end of 2021, as well as reduce pumping from the Seaside basin. The commission’s approval can be appealed to the Board of Supervisors.
With eight months left until the end of the year, the City of Santa Barbara is 8 percent shy of its goal to have half the power used by its municipal buildings come from renewable energy sources by 2020.
Since the Santa Barbara City Council committed to the goal in 2017, the city started installing three small scale solar arrays, two at fire stations and the last at the Eastside Branch Library, which began going up only this past week, said Alelia Parenteau, Energy Program supervisor at city Public Works.
Considered by many the key to long-running efforts to cut unauthorized pumping from the Carmel River, California American Water’s proposed desalination plant project is headed to the Monterey County Planning Commission next week.
On Wednesday, the commission is set to conduct a public hearing on a combined development permit for the proposed 6.4-million-gallon-per-day desal plant on Charlie Benson Road off Del Monte Boulevard north of Marina.
The commission is charged with considering a use permit and administrative permit and design approval, for the desal plant and related facilities based on consideration of a combined environmental impact report and environmental impact statement certified by the California Public Utilities Commission in September.