Desalination, With a Grain of Salt: Video

Desalination, With a Grain of Salt: A California Perspective
Heather Cooley, Senior Research Associate, Pacific Institute
Water Resources Center Archives , University of California, Berkeley (4/2008)

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. The public, politicians, and water managers continue to hope that cost-effective and environmentally safe ocean desalination will come to the rescue of water-short regions.

Interest in desalination has been especially high in California, where rapidly growing populations, inadequate regulation of the water supply/land-use nexus, and ecosystem degradation from existing water supply sources have forced a rethinking of water policies and management. In the past five years, public and private entities have put forward more than 20 proposals for large desalination facilities along the California coast. Project proponents point to statewide water-supply constraints, the reliability advantages of “”drought-proof”” supply, the water quality improvements offered by desalinated water, and the benefits of local control. Along with the proposals, however, has come a growing public debate about high economic and energy costs, environmental and social impacts, and consequences for coastal development policies. This presentation discusses the advantages and disadvantages of seawater desalination within the context of California.


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