Desalination in California


I’m ever curious about issues of water- water rights, water conservation and water costs. I’ve often wondered about desalination.

Desalination is the process by which salt is removed from seawater. This is either achieved by reverse-osmosis where water is blown through a filter membrane small enough to shut salt out- or by distillation, when water is heated to steam and salt is left behind.

I recently learned that California is investing in a huge desalination plant- this peaked my interest. What of it?

Apparently Israel has been using desalination for some time now. Israel’s IDE Technologies Ltd. will be building the new plant in southern California. But Israel has been using its desalination plants in combination with water conservation and water recycling. “In Israel, 75% of the country’s sewage is recycled.” Check out this article at

California has not made this step of recycling, and very little towards water conservation.

Why is it so rare that we take a well-rounded, holistic approach in the US?

Anyway, desalination is extremely costly, making it more practical as an adjunct to water recycling and conservation. Desalination emits green house gases through its mega use of energy and it requires pouring highly salted brine back into the oceans, making me thankful that I’m not a fish in San Diego.

Interestingly, wikipedia has some great information on desalination’s pros and cons and also on some less costly alternatives.

Also, the New York Times also has an interesting recent article on the new plant in southern California.

More food for thought.


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