Is desalination really California’s the first line of defense against water scarcity???

Desalination exists within California as a small production source, producing between .002 to 0.600million gallons per day. These plants are used for industrial processes. In 2002, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 2717 (Directing the department of water resources to establish a desalination task force to make recommendations related to potential opportunities for the use of seawater and brackish water desalination. The desalination task force established that desalination could only contribute to less than 10% of California’s water supply needs. Nine years after Assembly Bill 2717 passed, private corporations and municipal water agencies have proposed new desalination plants. There currently are over twenty large-scale desalination plants proposed throughout California (ranging in capacity from .40 MGD to 80MGD). The technology that is projected within desalination plants is Reverse Osmosis; a little insight on the inefficiency of this technology is displayed in the cost breakdown below: 
  • Provides reliable drought-resistant water supply to California
  • Improve water quality  compared to existing sources
  • Lessen the demand on northern California’s water supply by developing a local alternative for Southern California. 
  • Can add harmful chemicals and metals into the water it produces 
  • Intake waters could contain: Pharmaceuticals, algal toxins, and endocrine disruptors depending on water supply source
  • Desalination is extremely energy intensive, requiring 30% more energy than existing inter-basing supply system and the energy expense is 50% of the plants operating cost
  • Desalination also would indirectly cause more GHG emissions (greater dependence on fossil fuels) 
Desalination Project:
Desalination plants within California were indirectly withdrawn when coastal power plants once- through cooling methods ( seawater intakes and use the seawater for cooling from the power plant). In 2010, the California State Water Resource Control Board passed a policy to phase out the use of once-through cooling because of the impact on marine life. There were 20 desalination proposed to use open seawater intakes to withdraw water and ten of these will likely co-locate with existing power plants in order to share the intake pipes. Only 13 of those 20 projects are moving forward. 
Alternatives to Current and desalination water supply systems:
  1. Urban water conservation 
  2. Stormwater Capture/ reuse
  3. Water Recycling
  4. Groundwater Desalination requires less energy than seawater desalination because the water is less saline. 
  5. Greywater 

Crazy World Water Facts

1.  South Korea’s Hanwha Engineering & Construction company signed a $1.05 Billion deal to build a power station and desalination facility in Saudi Arabia. Expected to be completed in 2014.
2.  In Syria, on the other hand, Badia Development project in Hama Governate has completed construction on two water desalination plants totaling approximately $337,000. These plants will be using Charcoal and sand filters to supply clean drinking water to al-Badia inhabitants (addressing extreme shortage issues)
3.  Abu Dhabi implemented an Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) Program, which used the over capacity of desalination plants to replenish the underground water reservoir. Dubai is now following in similar footsteps by implementing a pilot project to recycle 182.5 million M3/year of generated wastewater to help recharge depleting groundwater supplies. Currently, 70% of all municipal wastewater in Dubai is being reused after treatment.
4.  Kuwait has the highest water consumption per capita in the world, around 500 liters per day 
5. South East England mitigates water stress by implementing a 50 million metering program, increasing the number of metered customers to 70% however they will not be charged until 2012.
6. GE Doubles capacity of China Manufacturing facilities, Wuxi- eastern China ( the focus of development on water infrastructure) GE plans to invest $2 billion through to 2012 to expand operations in China. Thus far, the plant includes Recycling, filtration and processing technologies (RO, Ultra filtration, and MWNT)
7. Current Leaky infrastructure adds up to $20 billion: According to Lux Research group the market is growing at 10% and is mostly being financed by spiraling consumer water bills. Lux Research states that a pipe monitoring program and technology would solve most infrastructure issues (there new product: Smart-meter)
8. Mobile Water Systems: with Japans and other recent natural disasters new markets have begun to expand the potable water and mobile water treatment. The expected generated revenues are $895 million by 2016. Currently the geographic breakdown is 
  • Americas: GE and Siemens (70% market control
  • Europe: GE, Degremont, Veolia (60% market share) and Lenntech, Eimco, and Norit 
  • Middle East & Africa: GE, Septech, Al Tamimi, (growth of market because of expansion)
  • Asia- Pacific: None of the top tier companies have a substantial presence: however GE, Siemens, Degremont, and Veolia have regional offices for early entrants.