Saltier than average environmentalists

The argument against increased reliance on desalination

As California's drought continues to intensify, coastal cities are looking to the ocean as a potential means of supplementing a dwindling reserve of fresh water.

Construction of what's being billed as the largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere has been underway for nearly two years in Carlsbad. Two other treatment facilities, in Oceanside and at Camp Pendleton, are among 11 new projects being considered throughout the state.

In response to the newfound interest in harvesting seawater, the California Water Resources Control Board has been working to draft a streamlined set of regulations for review and approval of desalination projects. To date, each proposal has been reviewed on a case-by-case basis. On May 6, the board voted to approve its draft regulation.

Water-quality activists with California Coastkeeper immediately cried foul. They claim the guidelines, based off the Carlsbad project, will "utilize practices predicted to kill billions of marine organisms, cost ratepayers and municipalities more money than alternative water sources, produce more pollution, and impact marine ecosystems more severely than is necessary."

Once the salt is separated from a portion of the water pumped through a desalination plant to be retained for fresh-water use, the remaining highly alkaline "brine" is pumped back to the ocean via a discharge channel where it mixes with other seawater. Marine-life advocates are concerned that the extra salinity could have a negative effect on coastal wildlife, especially for creatures along the sea floor where sediments from the discharge could settle.

Coastkeeper's San Diego chapter has long advocated for fresh-water conservation measures, potable reuse, or wastewater recycling, touting the practice as cheaper and more environmentally sound. The City of San Diego is already moving forward with such a program, following a successful pilot run in 2010.

"Ocean desalination is not an effective drought response," says Coastkeeper executive director Sara Aminzadeh. "Desalination facilities are constructed under enormous cost to ratepayers, and often go unused. The desalination policy adopted creates a framework for local entities to consider and mitigate facility impacts to the ocean, but aside from environmental impacts, desalination is almost always the most costly and energy-intensive source of water."

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Coastkeeper can cry all they want but making residential users of water provide the majority of reductions while BIG WATER businesses get to enjoy their unlimited water allotments to increase their profits is unacceptable!

The Pacific Ocean can and should provide California with abundant amounts of portable water. All those that oppose desalinization are just playing into the hands of those that now control our portable water and are make GIANT profits doing so. Coastkeeper should disclose any funding by those that seek to delay desalinization projects and/or all new sources of portable (since it will reduce Big Water's control of our Water and it's pricing).

Until we have much more portable water available, we will continue to be overcharges for our water, while BIG USERS continue to get their water either for free or at reduced prices as compared to residential users thanks to our elected Leaders reliance upon donations from these BIG DONORS.

Absolutely. Any serious discussion of water policy in CA should be primarily focused on agricultural users and other big companies (e.g. Nestle) because they consume the majority of the water. However they also have the majority of the political clout thanks to big BRIBES errrr DONATIONS to the government.

It always has seemed to me that if the water brought into the area were used twice, it would be like doubling the supply. Use it the first time for domestic, industrial, and commercial purposes, capture it, and treat it enough to make it safe for irrigation. Some would object, I'm sure, to using it for irrigating citrus and avocado groves, and even for our floriculture industry. But since I keep reading/hearing that about half of the water used by households is used for outdoor watering, it seems logical that the recycled and treated water could then keep lawns green, trees thriving, etc., etc. Yes, it would be costly to have two water delivery systems, but all these current machinations aren't free, are they?

Has anyone heard of the energy-water connection? Climate change is worsening the epic drought. How "green" is it to increase carbon-dioxide emissions to attempt to solve a problem caused in part by the purported "solution" - more people living in a desert that is drying up?

San Diego must get 90% of its water from outside sources. My sister skied in Dubai. Are we "skiing in Dubai?"

Desalination has numerous environmental costs - salt and carbon as well as expense come to mind. Unless voters are willing to study these problems in debt, they have "opinions." Since the advent of cable news followed by blogging. It is fashionable to offer opinions on any and every subject in many cases without any prior investigation. Once expressed, that opinion must be vigorously defended at all costs. Cognitive dissonance theory would predict this result. At least in school, the teacher can tell you that you did not do your homework without being attacked. My question is how many hours of research did the author of this article or those commenting engage in on this critical subject before coming to an opinion that will likely remain resistant to change? One hour? Ten minutes.

Please get into a habit of spending 100 hours of research before expressing opinions on subjects of public concern. It this too much to ask? Your opinion is only worth the effort you made in forming that opinion. Without a serious prior investigation of the facts, why would you consider yourself "experts" on the subject?

Spend at least 100 hours in the coming month studying the drought, climate change and paleoclimatology. The time you save in expressing uninformed opinions could translate into being a truly informed citizen. We need more voters with expertise, not more opinions from the hip. You are smart, no doubt; but lazy. Do your homework first and then spew opinions. An opinion is like a navel - everyone has one. Make yours an informed one. You will feel much better about yourself and accomplish great service to the public. Otherwise, you are just exercising your fingers on a keyboard without engaging your brain.

Dave's short blog piece wasn't intended to be an in-depth analysis of all the ramifications of desalination vs. other options. What he was doing was reporting news. Asking him to spend 100 hours of research before making a post would mean very few posts, and even fewer that were timely.

If you applied such a standard to all news media, there would be little news and much behind-the-times commentary. But perhaps you just don't grasp the difference between reporting news and well-reasoned scholarship. There is a difference, and it is largely in timing, and not effort.

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