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Pacific Institute Insights is the staff blog of the Pacific Institute, one of the world’s leading nonprofit research groups on sustainable and equitable management of natural resources. For more about what we do, click here.

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    Fits and Starts at the Salton Sea

    By Michael Cohen, Senior Research Associate

    May 16, 2016

    Daniel M. Edwards
    Daniel M. Edwards

    The fortunes and prospects of California’s Salton Sea have ebbed and flowed over the years. Currently, the Sea is enjoying renewed attention and funding, after almost a decade of neglect and indifference. The State of California is poised to dedicate $80 million to efforts to protect and revitalize (a small portion of) the Salton Sea, prompted in large part by a fast-approaching tipping point that will see a dramatic shrinking of the Sea, devastating its rich ecosystem and imperiling the health of hundreds of thousands of people in the region.

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    National Geographic ScienceBlogs: The Future of Desalination in California is Still in the Future: California, Israel, and Australia

    By Peter Gleick, President

    June 10, 2015

    It’s only natural that during a crisis we look to single, “silver bullet” technical solutions, after all, they are supposed to be effective against werewolves, witches, and other monsters. For monsters like the ongoing severe California drought, the current favorite silver bullet is seawater desalination.  And why not? California sits at the edge of the largest body of salt water in the world – the Pacific Ocean – and taking salt out of water is a successful, commercial, well-understood technology.

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    What about Desalination during the Drought?

    by Amanda Pebler, Communications Intern

    August 13, 2014

    When discussing the current drought in California, there is often talk of desalination and its potential to increase our freshwater supply. Desalination, the process of removing salt and minerals from saline water, seems like an obvious solution to the drought and ongoing water scarcity concerns because it is a reliable, drought-proof water source. Indeed, fourteen new desalination plants have been proposed along the California coast and one is under development in Carlsbad. For many, this may seem like an answer to the “exceptional drought”. As consumers, it may also seem like a way to help us avoid making lifestyle changes, such as Governor Jerry Brown’s call for Californians to reduce their water use by 20 percent. But while desalination may be a reliable option, the answer is much more complicated.

    One of the greatest issues with desalination is the cost associated with these projects. A new plant may cost upwards of hundreds of millions of dollars to build (a billion in the case of the Carlsbad facility), plus considerable cost to run the plant.

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    Desalination and Energy Use…Should We Pass the Salt?

    By Heather Cooley, Water Program Co-Director

    May 28, 2013

    Long considered the Holy Grail of water supply, desalination offers the potential of an unlimited source of fresh water purified from the vast oceans of salt water that surround us. Interest in seawater desalination in California is high, with 17 plants proposed along the California coast and two in Mexico. But the rapid expansion of desalination in California – there are currently only a handful of small plants operating along the coast, and most of these are for industrial purposes – raises concerns that must be addressed. …»

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