Plans for desalination projects move forward in California with new state funding
Plans to move forward with eight desalination projects across the state will move forward after California water officials approved $34.4 million in grants for the projects. The projects are part of an effort to increase the water supply in California to help during drought years. The money is going to come from Proposition 1, which is a water bond that was passed by voters in November 2014. Richard Mills, water recycling and desalination chief for the state Department of Water Resources, stated,
Desalination can play an important role in California’s water future. But we want to be protective of the environment and provide water at reasonable cost. That’s been the challenge for desalination, in terms of why we can’t just build a lot of plants anywhere.
Only one of the desalination projects is dependent on ocean water, six of the projects are dependent on brackish desalination, and the last project is for research at the University of Southern California. Brackish desalination involves using salty water from a river, bay or underground aquifer that is filtered for drinking, rather than taking ocean water, which is often up to three times saltier and more expensive to purify. According to Mills, ocean desalination costs between $2,000 and $2,500 an acre-foot, but brackish desalination can range from $1,000 to $2,000. An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons, which is roughly the amount of water a family of five uses in a year. California has five active ocean desalination plants that provide less than 1 percent of the state’s drinking water and about 24 brackish plants that produce 96,000 acre-feet of water a year. Hopefully, these new desalination projects can be built in a timely manner and can provide fresh water to Californians for years to come.