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: 
Pros: 
  • 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. 
Cons:
  • 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Desalination plants within California were indirectly withdrawn when coastal power plants once- through cooling methods ( seawater intakes and use the seawater for cooling from the power plant).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. 

Random Water Facts and Disputes

  1. Fire Departments Vs. Public Utilities: Numerous Utilities in North Carolina have had extensive water theft by local fire departments. When I initially heard of this argument, I thought it was a misprint, but it’s not…. Numerous fire departments have been illegally drawing water from hydrants to fill swimming pools and other non-firefighting related activities. Little do they know that North Carolina legislation states that fire departments and other water thefts can be charged $500.00 per misuse or five times the cost of water taken (which can be high). (Call with Warren Public Utility)
  2. According to the AWWA 08 rate study: National water and wastewater charges increased 12.3% and 15.1%, respectively, for a residential customer using 1,000 cubic feet (cf) of water a month between January 1, 2006 and July 1, 2008.  During the same period, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all urban customers increased 10.9%.
  3. Between 1996 and 2008, water and wastewater charges for residential customers using 1,000 ccf per month have increased 4.21% and 4.39% annually, respectively, which is greater than the annual CPI increase of 2.87% (AWWA Rate Study, 2008).
  4. Water and wastewater charges are highest in the Northeast while water and wastewater charges are lowest in the Midwest (AWWA Rate Study, 2008).
  5. Even with the charge increases, water and wastewater charges remain affordable as defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency.(National Census Data).

Ways to Get Involved in Water Projects…… Amazing Water Efforts

Living Water International is a non-profit organization that shows you your potential impact on the environment from consumption of coffee and bottled water. It introduces the current water issues in Sub-Saharan Africa (40 billion hours of labor wasted each year in carrying water long distances). Their description of water on a Global Scale drives home issues that plague billions in the picture from the there website below.

The Pursuit of Water is a project that is focusing on worldwide social issues about water, gathering together the globe and bringing change through creative, innovative media. Providing a brief introduction of water issues, The Pursuit of Water, is a great gateway to becoming involved in water projects by connecting multiple water efforts across the globe. 

Water.org is an extremely powerful non-profit organization that not only introduces new water issues, but they have extensive practical solutions to implement against these issues. For instance, you can choose to become involved or donate to their micro-finance loan system that aid people living in impoverished regions with the financial burden of improving their water source. They have extensive media coverage of their work because of the celebrity (Matt Damon) who has become a spokesperson for them. They have an extreme goal that aims to aid in providing everyone in the world with clean water. 

The One Drop goal is to fight poverty by providing access to water and raising awareness among people and communities about the need for mobilization to make safe water accessible to all, in sufficient quantity, today, and tomorrow. One Drops’ approach is a tripod approach based on three complementary components: Technical, micro-finance, and social arts/popular education. Currently, they have active projects in Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti, El Salvador and India.

Amman Imman: Water is Life is similar to Water.org and One Drop, but this non-profit began in 2006 by Ariane Kirtley (Fulbright scholar researching in Azawak, Niger). The program started by drilling wells then a partnership developed providing maintenance to the wells, and now it has expanded into a network of schools, food production, and development.  Improving health, education, lifestyle, and efficiency among the people of Niger. Now Amman Imman is focusing on helping other water projects in Africa, the next being Azawak of West Africa (goal is to develop 50 or more cases of life across Azawak). 

Charity: Water now has 3,962 water focused projects, and they have raised more than 20 million. The projects are located in Bangladesh,Bolivia, Cambodia, Central African Republic,Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Nepal, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Uganda. They Connect with other groups to execute these wells and to promote further development of these regions by providing videos of the contamination. For example here is the footage from Kenya (http://www.charitywater.org/projects/fromthefield/kenya.php). If your interested in seeing the conditions of these nations water then pick a country that interests you and see how what is not shows on Discovery. You can take the bull by the horns with this organization and sponsor a water project and see the phases of development.

Relating these projects back to UC Berkeley Campus, the UC Berkeley students have begun an initiative to end the sale of plastic water bottles on campus. They have been able to remove the bottled water from all vending machines on campus, and sustainable water bottles are sold as a replacement forcing students, and faculty to reuse their water containers. 

Water Quotes

  1. “For each ton of recycled paper you save 7000 gallons of water/ 17 trees/ 4200 Kilowatt-hours of energy/ 40 lbs of nitrogen emissions/ 3 cubic yards of landfill space.”
  2. “A person must consume 2.5 quarts of water per day from all sources (drinking, eating) to maintain health.” US EPA.
  3. “62,600 gallons of water are needed to produce one ton of steel.” US EPA.
  4. “The United States consumes water at twice the rate of other industrialized nations.” National Park Service.
  5. “75% of a living tree is water; 66% of human body is water; 75% of the human brain is water.” US EPA.
  6. “Americans flush 6.8 billion gallons of water down their toilets every day.” National Parks Service.
  7. “Alfalfa consumes almost 25% of California’s irrigation water, more water than any other crop in the state.” Natural Resource Defense Council.
  8. “The average 5-minute showers uses 15-25 gallons of water.” American Water Works Association.
  9. Preliminary estimates show that the total energy used to pump and treat water in California exceeds 15,00 GWH per year, or at least 6.5% of the total electricity used in the State per year.” California Department of Water Resources.
  10. “Leaks account for 12% of an average Californian’s daily water use.” The Pacific Institute.
  11. “Bottled water can cost 240-10,000 times more than tap water and may not be any more safe to drink. Around 25-35% of bottled water sold in the U.S. comes from a city or town’s tap water, sometimes further treated, sometimes note.” Natural Resources Defense Council.
  12. “It takes 39,090 gallons of water on average to manufacture a new car.” EPA
  13. “Agriculture accounts for 87% of all the freshwater consumed each year in the U.S.” Livestock Production: Energy Inputs and the Environment, by David Pimentel.
  14. “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.”Benjamin Franklin.
  15. “Water sustains all.” Thales of Miletus, 600B.C