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Southern California Dealing with Drought-The Role of Desalination-Carlsbad & Huntington Beach

The Economist April 2nd 2022 pp21 |United States|Drought in California|”Hold the salt” Carlsbad “The promise and pitfalls of seawater desalination”

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Summary by 2244

Image from DW.COM

When it comes to ensuring enough water in times of drought the experts first look to cut back on consumption, tap groundwater where available, fix leaking water infrastructure, cut back on thirsty landscaping, capture rainwater and even recycle waste water before they consider seawater desalination.

Desalination, the process of using reverse osmosis to remove salt from seawater, has drawbacks; it's the most expensive solution, it's energy intensive, and it's potentially harmful to marine life. Despite this, in a locale without available groundwater, Carlsbad CA, such a plant is churning out 50M gallons of new drinking water everyday.

Poseidon Water, the developer, is working to install another plant up the road in Huntington Beach but has spent “two decades to persuade Californians of the plant’s necessity. [Yet] Many Orange County residents still remain unconvinced or even hostile to the idea.”

At the core of the debate is really settling on the role of desalination in “in preparing California for a drier future.” Most experts agree that desalination is not a single solution but that it could “play a larger role in the state’s water mix as technology improves.” Innovations mentioned are using more automation, using solar power and finding other ways to deal with the salty concentrate currently released back into the Pacific.


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