reverse osmosis can’t reverse our choices

Desalination is often hailed as the savior of the California water crisis. Many people want to know what desalination is all about. Many people think that it is the obvious solution.

I think desalination stations warrant a careful discussion because there are so many factors involved that shape their costs and benefits.

Here are the some of my main concerns about desalination:

Environmental Destruction

Most coastlines in the world have very delicate ecosystems. The intake pumps of the desalination plant can be destructive to the sea life living in those ecosystems. There are different types of pump available which offer varying degrees of destruction to the coastline. The two basic categories are Open intakes and Subsurface intakes. It is important that we hold our decision makers accountable to understanding these differences so that they can vote for proper regulations. Ideally, these regulations would ensure that the best options are available to use for various regions of the coast. If they are not managed properly 3.4 billion fish could be removed my pumps annually. Here is an article with more details about what to look for in desalination pumps.

Mismanagement On Repeat

It is vital to the longevity of any type of system to have proper management. I think proper management is attainable with desalination, but I do think we should be extra cautious. It is unwise to switch to another water source (the ocean) because we have poorly managed our other resources (rivers, lakes, groundwater). We must learn from our mistakes and properly implement new management systems.

Supply and Demand

Currently, Californians are not yet at water usage rates per day that would allow the benefit of desalination outweigh the costs. We need to curb, cut, and conserve our usage before we are able to truly benefit from the cost of building and operating desalination plants.

Corporate Control

Introducing new resources will always present an opportunity for private corporate control. When you combine corporate control and an essential resource of life, there will probably be conflicts of interest. Who do they sell the water to? What price do they sell it for? How do folks inland get water? Will this increase their water prices?
We have already seen the effects of corporate control in the oil industry despite it being one of the most heavily regulated industries in the country. There are still loop holes to avoid regulations. Desalination also presents ample potential for regulation loopholes. This must be heavily considered and prevented. It is critical to make sure we do everything we can to prevent the problems instead of trying to fix them later.

Resources:
Water Consciousness: How we all have to Change to Protect our Most Valuable Resource

LA Times Op-Ed: “Shorter Showers? 9 more ways the State has to Change it’s Water Ways”

Wateruse Association: Overview of Desalination Plant Intake Alternatives

 

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