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Earth Technology

California City Considers Restarting Desalination Plant To Fight Drought 420

First time accepted submitter SaraLast (3619459) writes in with news about Santa Barbara considering the restart of its desalination plant. "This seaside city thought it had the perfect solution the last time California withered in a severe drought more than two decades ago: Tap the ocean to turn salty seawater to fresh water. The $34 million desalination plant was fired up for only three months and mothballed after a miracle soaking of rain. As the state again grapples with historic dryness, the city nicknamed the "American Riviera" has its eye on restarting the idled facility to hedge against current and future droughts. "We were so close to running out of water during the last drought. It was frightening," said Joshua Haggmark, interim water resources manager. "Desalination wasn't a crazy idea back then." Removing salt from ocean water is not a far-out idea, but it's no quick drought-relief option. It takes years of planning and overcoming red tape to launch a project. Santa Barbara is uniquely positioned with a desalination plant in storage. But getting it humming again won't be as simple as flipping a switch."
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California City Considers Restarting Desalination Plant To Fight Drought

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  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Monday May 05, 2014 @12:57PM (#46920265) Journal

    ....someone's going to figure out that the problem here is " It takes years of planning and overcoming red tape to launch a project. "

    If the state simultaneously refuses to constrain growth within their water resources, and cannot GTFO of the way of communities *solving* the water resource limitations themselves, does anyone see there's a contradiction there?

    • Because the state is the one who is going to pay for it. Desalination is very costly and inefficient. It can not be run as a profitable business.

  • I'm soooo looking forward to someone in California realizing that their seawater is connected to the seawater outside of Fukushima Daiichi ...

    • 1) It's unlikely there's significant amounts of radiation after having been diluted with the entire Pacific Ocean.
      2) Even if their were, it would be removed during the evaporation process, as it's unlikely this plant is going to be operating at a temperature sufficient to boil heavy metals

    • Re:Radiation! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Monday May 05, 2014 @01:30PM (#46920573)

      I'm soooo looking forward to someone in California realizing that their seawater is connected to the seawater outside of Fukushima Daiichi ...

      LOL, Yea, I love this kind of thing. Just because we can MEASURE the radiation in something means that it is a deadly poison.. Never mind that the yearly exposure is an order of magnitude or two less than what you'd get say in one airplane trip... You are right though, there will be protests the day before they turn on the switch (after the money is spent) claiming it's "not too late!" .

      You say RADIATION and the poor uninformed public run like scared sheep to put a stop to that deadly menace to society, science and medical experts aside.

  • It takes years of planning and overcoming red tape to launch a project.

    And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the evidence of lack (if not outright absence) of freedom. Sure, the government collecting records of our communications is scary. But the real threat is that more and more things are considered a privilege to be granted — or withdrawn — by the Executive, rather than a right, which can only be taken away by the Judiciary.

    When even a (smaller) government — with officials fighting red t

  • but it ain't cheap. What is amazing is one of these heavy duty reverse osmosis systems, I saw one on a small trailer where the hose in harbor water in New Orleans just after Katrina. That water had all kinds of horrible stuff from sewage to industrial chemicals, but the output was nice clean drinking water. On a large scale it can be very expensive and then what to do with the filter units. Also the energy to run these things. So you can get water, it's the cost penalty.

    I say for starters don't use water

  • The western U.S. is living on borrowed time. Decades of unsustainable development mean that the West is already using more water than it has, leading to depletion of aquifers like the Ogallala, and reservoirs like Lake Mead and Lake Powell. Climate change makes it a pretty good bet that the current decades-long drought is going to become the new normal. The southwest can't sustain its population, or its agricultural economy. Today's southwesterners are going to be the new Anasazi, real soon. Everybody knows
  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Monday May 05, 2014 @01:44PM (#46920733)

    One of the challenges for renewables like wind/solar is being able to generate power when the grid doesn't need it.

    Maybe instead of stopping the windmills they should keep them spinning but use desal plants as a power sink for the "excess" power. It's by and large free energy they wouldn't even generate; you might as well generate it and use it to do useful work.

    It's debatable whether the excess energy could desal enough water to make a difference.

  • by GAATTC ( 870216 ) on Monday May 05, 2014 @02:28PM (#46921117)
    Consumption -> energy use -> global warming -> worse droughts -> desalinization -> energy use ->->-> This is a very poor long term solution
  • The majority of water in Santa Barbara is derived from local sources. While there is a lot of local agriculture, it is primarily on coastal planes, not in classic desert areas like Imperial Country. In our current year we've had less than half our typical rainfall, and it has has been going on like this for three years now. Our last drought, when the desal plant was first built, took seven years to set in, we've reached the crisis point in this drought much more quickly. My point is I don't think we're quite as dumb as the rest of the state where they can't ever manage on local sources in normal years, we can. But when things go dry quickly like they have, we get caught out. Of course building a desal plant in an emergency is actually a rain dance. It worked perfectly last time, and given the predictions of an El Nino for next year, it should work this time as well.

This process can check if this value is zero, and if it is, it does something child-like. -- Forbes Burkowski, CS 454, University of Washington