Tags: University of Calif. | Davis | U.S. | Desalinization | MIT Technology Review

Desalinization Will Quench U.S.

By Monday, 05 January 2015 03:54 PM Current | Bio | Archive

It has been said that, “necessity is the mother of invention.” Today, worldwide over 700 million people are the victims of water scarcity and that number is expected to rise to over 1.8 billion in just the next 10 years.

According to a recent study by the University of California, Davis, the recent drought in California alone has wreaked havoc on agriculture causing $1.5 billion in losses in 2014.

So, it makes perfect sense that with California and other states facing persistent natural water challenges — where at any given moment in time there are significant areas of America that face serious drought conditions warranting water rationing in cities and cut offs for farmers — that scientists, businessmen, and entrepreneurs are looking for solutions. One of the solutions being seriously considered and tried on a grand scale is desalinization.

Desalinization is the process of removing dissolved salts from water, thus producing fresh water from seawater or brackish water. MIT Technology Review on Dec. 16, 2014 released a detailed article on the viability and necessity of desalinization entitled, “Desalinization out of Desperation” authored by David Talbot.

The article it points out, with regard to the San Diego, Los Angeles, and the Fresno areas of California, over 80 percent of water for homes and businesses is imported from sources well beyond their locales and that those sources have become increasingly stressed because of competition. It also points out that the Colorado River for example is so overtaxed it rarely reaches the sea anymore.

Today, desalinization is one of the most expensive sources of fresh water.
Water sells — depending on site conditions — for between $1,000 and $2,500 per acre-foot (the amount used by two five-person U.S. households per year). Carlsbad California’s desalinization plant will sell water for about $2,000 per acre, which is 80 percent higher than the county pays for treated water from outside areas.

For many coastal communities in California, seawater is still the option of last resort, after conservation, recycling, and even treating and reusing sewage.

Israel is a good example of how desalination has solved its water challenges in light of lack of rain and fresh water. McClatchyDC reported the following in March of 2014 — in an article authored by Joel Greenberg — that Israel has four plants in operation, all built since 2005; and a fifth slated to go into service this year. Israel is meeting much of its water needs by purifying seawater from the Mediterranean. Some 80 percent of domestic water use in Israeli cities comes from desalinated water, according to Israeli officials.

Each of Israel’s plants cost between $300 million and $450 million to build. The plants are privately owned and operated, under a contract with the government, which buys the water from the plants. The budget for water purchases comes from water charges to consumers. The plants are not subsidized.

Israel’s efforts to solve its water shortage haven’t ended with desalination. The country treats and recycles more than 80 percent of its wastewater, using it primarily for agriculture, making it a world leader in that field.

While desalinization is not cheap, it may become cheaper to build and maintain due to scientific advancement. A combination of sensor-driven optimization and automation, plus new types of membranes, could eventually allow for desalination plants that are half the size and use commensurately less energy. Among other benefits, small, mobile desalination units could be used in agricultural regions hundreds of miles away from the ocean — where demand for water is great and growing.

MIT’s report ends on this note: Water captured in reservoirs or pumped from faraway deltas is getting more expensive; such alternatives come with their own environmental costs. As sources dry up and competition for water mounts from businesses, farmers, and cities, we will inevitably turn to seawater and other salty sources. It might not be a great solution, but the bottom line is that we are left with fewer and fewer choices in a water-starved world.

Just like fuel, water is a necessity for life, prosperity and security. The more we can produce our own water, cleanly and cheaply — the better off we will be. There is a cost benefit to desalinization, as we have an abundant source of treatable water from sea to shining sea. Being able to produce our own water wherever and whenever we want is a benefit worth the investment.

Now is the time to think beyond the moment and move quickly to solve a problem that will only get worse without solution. Quenching our own thirst for water and fuel should be a national priority.

Bradley A. Blakeman served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He is currently a professor of politics and public policy at Georgetown University and a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion. Read more reports from Bradley Blakeman — Click Here Now.

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Now is the time to think beyond the moment and move quickly to solve a problem that will only get worse without solution. Quenching our own thirst for water and fuel should be a national priority.
University of Calif., Davis, U.S., Desalinization, MIT Technology Review
Monday, 05 January 2015 03:54 PM
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