There is broad recognition that adapting to climate change, coupled with the need to address aging infrastructure, population growth, and degraded ecosystems, will require rethinking programs and policies and investing in our natural and built water systems.
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.
Pacific Institute Water Program Director Heather Cooley testified on September 25, 2014 in front of the Assembly Select Committee on Coastal Protection regarding desalination impacts. Heather spoke separately on desalination intakes and broader policy issues of desalination facilities.
The eighth volume in this highly regarded series, The World’s Water, Volume 8 features chapters on hydraulic fracturing (fracking), water footprints, sustainable water jobs, and desalination financing, among other timely issues. Water briefs provide concise updates on topics including the Dead Sea and the role of water in the Syrian conflict.
As competition for freshwater resources heightens across the globe, the prospect of using technology to turn unusable seawater into an unending resource is a tempting fix. While seawater desalination is one potential solution to the need for alternative sources of freshwater, more research is needed to understand the impacts of desalination on marine life.
California’s water supply is vulnerable to seasonal extremes that are exacerbated by the effects of climate change. Seawater desalination is a reliable source of water, which can be especially valuable during a drought.
Seawater desalination is gaining traction as a potential solution to water supply challenges in California, but economics – specifically, the cost of the water produced and the complex financial arrangements needed to develop a project – will ultimately determine the success and extent of this technology.