Water, water everywhere….
Updated: Sep 24, 2022
“Water, water everywhere...now some of it to drink.” – from "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," by Samuel Taylor Coleridge...kinda.
At a certain age, we're usually told by our doctors to adopt a low-salt diet, or start taking statins for high blood pressure. Well, California's aging water supply and the high pressure to find more reliable sources of water may put the state on its own ”no salt” water program.
Desalination is a process that takes away mineral components from saline water. More generally, desalination refers to the removal of salts and minerals from a target substance, as in water or even soil. Saltwater (especially sea water) is desalinated to produce water suitable for human consumption or irrigation. The by-product of the desalination process is brine or highly concentrated salt laden water. The disposal of brine is one of the challenges posed by environmentalists as the brine is often discharged into the marine environment near where the desalination facilities are typically located.
Desalination is used on many seagoing ships and submarines. Most of the modern interest in desalination is focused on cost-effective provision of fresh water for human use. Along with recycled wastewater, it is one of the few rainfall-independent water resources. However, due to its energy consumption, desalinating sea water is generally more costly than fresh water from surface water or groundwater, water recycling and water conservation methods. That is why desalination is very prevalent in arid areas where energy is not a major prohibiting factor, such as in the oil-rich Middle East. Desalination processes are usually driven by either thermal (in the case of distillation) or electrical (in the case of reverse osmosis) as the primary energy types. Both the thermal and reverse osmosis processes entail a great deal of energy, each typically having is roots in energy requirements based on fossil fuels, either directly or indirectly. This too is an argument often posed by environmentalists in making a case against desalination.
Some of the most talked-about and studied desalination facilities are here in Southern California. The currently operational Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Facility in Carlsbad supplies 50 million gallons of desalinated water to 400,000 people, or about one third of the population in the northern San Diego County area. The next most talked about and studied is the desalination facility in Huntington Beach Desalination Facility scheduled to go on-line in 2023. This facility is in the process of planning, permitting and design, which began as early as 2005, and is intended supply 50 million gallons to approximately 150,000 in the Orange County area.
The third facility is in the initial planning stage and is to be in Dana Point. The exact size and capacity are yet to be determined but its service area would be the southern most portion of Orange County. Its fate could be determined by the success of the Huntington Beach Facility and/or the possibility of other fresh water sources available to South Orange County.
Following is just one article that repeats or re-enforces what I have just written but also discusses some of the pros and cons of desalination. https://www.wired.com/story/desalination-is-booming-as-cities-run-out-of-water/
Carlsbad desalination plant: www.carlsbaddesal.com
Huntington Beach desalination plans: www.poseidonwater.com
Dana Point (Doheny) desalination plans: www.scwd.org