It's the Environment, Stupid.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

California to try out desalinization

Yet again – California takes the lead. Huntington Beach, CA approved construction for a big ol desalinization plant. (ENN posting from Reuters.) Environmentalists reportedly want to err on the side of caution saying we don't know what this'll do to our oceans. But is this really all that different than carbon sequestration? New technology - short term solution for a big problem - long term effects unknown.

If desalinzation can prove to be successful and even prompt some technology innovations that would bring the price down on new plants this would solve HUGE water issues in the world. Aside from the environmentalists critiques of pumping back excess salt into the water, and not knowing the effects on the marine ecosystems, there could potentially be other problems. Desalinization would mean our oceans would be a new resource for water, a seemingly endless supply of water – would that change the way we consume water? Would we (the global we) use more water than ever? Who is going to reap the rewards for pumping to it inland areas? Would we find out, as we learned the hard way about animals and trees that the ocean may not really be an inexhaustible resource? Or with predicted rising ocean levels due to climate change, maybe overuse of ocean waters would actually end up saving our islands and low-lying coastal cities.

While I usually am in favor of abiding by the precautionary principle, I don't think desalinization in California should be stopped. But we do need to be smart about it's use and monitor (and acknowledge) externalities so we can remedy them before potential problems get out of hand.


  • of course I'm a comic geek. You knew that.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 13:56  

  • Hm, there has been huge oposition to the idea of a desal plant in Sydney. Apart from the problems of dumping the hot salty waste water back into the ocean, it's incredibly expensive (about 10 times the cost of water from rivers and dams and 3 times the cost of recycling waste water) and uses massive amounts of electricity (= greenhouse emissions). I don't how big the plant proposed for California is, but the 500 Ml/day plant proposed for Sydney was estimated to produce emissions equivalent to having an extra 220,00 cars on the road and increasing the total electricity consumption of the State by almost 2%. That's a lot!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 23:04  

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