Walking south along the coast of Catalina Island, the noises of bustling tourists and the crashing Pacific waves quickly give way to a steady whir. This is the sound of Southern California Edison’s energy plant that not only powers the entire island, but also provides it with potable water through its desalination system.
The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that less than 2 percent of California is still experiencing severe drought impacts, but that small area is concentrated in southern Santa Barbara County and parts of neighboring Ventura and Los Angeles counties.
Thanks to recent rainstorms, the water level in Catalina Island’s main reservoir is now above the critically-low level that triggered extreme rationing requirements last summer. The island is unique in that Southern California Edison controls the water supply.
California’s historic drought may be winding down. But water officials across the Golden State are increasingly exploring a hidden but promising way to add to the state’s water supply: removing salt from the billions of gallons of brackish — or distastefully salty — water that lies deep below the Earth’s surface.
Top Monterey County officials met in early 2011 to discuss ways to dump the Marina Coast Water District from the regional desalination project, raising questions about the county’s efforts to make the three-pronged project partnership work and potentially affecting civil litigation aimed at unraveling the failed proposal.
“Former Monterey County water board member Steve Collins has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the county, California American Water and top officials in connection with his dual role on the failed regional desalination project.”
“Timothy Quinn is with the Association of California Water Agencies, or ACWA. He says planned Central Valley water recycling projects and a water desalination project in San Diego are welcome, but he says conservation is equally important.”
“The crews are building what boosters say represents California’s best hope for a drought-proof water supply: the largest ocean desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere. The $1 billion project will provide 50 million gallons of drinking water a day for San Diego County when it opens in 2016.”
“Thanks to improved technology, turning ocean water into freshwater is becoming more economically feasible. And a looming global water crisis may make it crucial to the planet’s future.
‘Whenever a drought exacerbates freshwater supplies in California, people tend to look toward the ocean for an answer,” said Jennifer Bowles, executive director of the California-based Water Education Foundation.’”
“The Bureau of Reclamation is seeking proposals from universities, water utilities, private industry and others to address a broad range of desalting and water purification needs. Reclamation is interested in research that will have national significance and where the benefits of the technology will be widespread.”
“Quietly whirring away in a dusty field in the Central Valley is a shiny solar energy machine that may someday solve many of California’s water problems.
“It’s called the WaterFX solar thermal desalination plant, and it has been turning salty, contaminated irrigation runoff into ultra-pure liquid for nearly a year for the Panoche Water and Drainage District.”
Aquafornia’s Water Word of the Week from sister site Aquapedia is Desalination. Aquapedia, the Water Education Foundation’s interactive online water encyclopedia, contains vetted information from an objective source.
According to an excerpt from the Aquapedia entry, “Recurrent droughts and uncertainties about future water supplies have led several California communities to look to saltwater for supplemental supplies through a process known as desalination.
“A judge ruled the failed regional desalination project agreements can still be challenged, but only by the Monterey County Water Resources Agency and not California American Water.
“Marina Coast Water District, a former regional project partner with Cal Am and the county, has alleged its partners should pay its project costs, estimated at $15 million to $18 million, because they backed out of valid project agreements.”