Nice piece in the New Mexico Independent today by Joel Gay about desalination as a source of water here in New Mexico:
Coastal communities have been taking the salt out of seawater for years, but inland cities are starting to join them out of need. El Paso was in danger of exhausting its aquifer when it decided to build a desalination plant, according to El Paso Water Utilities. Opened in 2007 at a cost of $87 million — including $27 million in federal funding — it churns out 27.5 million gallons of fresh water a day, or roughly a quarter of the city’s demand.
Tucson, Phoenix and Las Vegas are pondering desalination projects, too.
In early April, the state District Court in Alamogordo cleared the way for that city to tap the Tularosa Basin for about 1.3 billion gallons of brackish water a year. Work has already started on the desalination plant.
(I’ve been meaning to blog about the Independent – cool project, involving a number of former colleagues of mine for whom I have a great deal of respect. Good journalists, pursuing a different model. I’m excited about it.)
Please do blog about the Independent; I’m very curious to hear what you have to say about it.
“Energy costs are unknown now, but could be substantial, he said. Recorp has installed equipment at the site to see if wind or solar energy might be used, but alternative energy sources would likely have to be combined with natural gas or electric power, he added.”
I don’t know the mix of power for N.M. – Since NG is already mentioned, does “electric power” mean hydro? nuclear? coal?
I’d propose that there are few rules for review processes for *any* major infrastructure to avoid spending a lot of money on things that become “stranded assets”, i.e., must be abandoned before the 3end of their natural economic life.
1. SEA LEVEL RISE
Well, that one doesn’t affect N.M.
2. ENERGY REVIEW
Does a plan have a realistic model for energy costs and soruces over its useful life?
a) Peak Oil (essentially ~now or next few years)
b) Peak Gas (likely 10-20 years after Peak Oil)
c) Climate issues with building new coal plants
d) Declining EROI on a) and b).
One would want to have some model of long-term electricity costs and sources before investing in this. Personally, I would think CSP-solar & some wind would be good bets in N.M., but maybe nuclear … before building a facility that would be crucial. Anyway, I’m not arguing for or against this [after all, CA does some amazing things for water, and we spend ~20% of our electricity to pump it around already], simply hoping that people review plans with realistic assumptions. This *may* be a very good investment now, especially since building it later might have to be done with $10/gal gasoline, or worse.
As an example of planned infrastructure that raises energy concerns, the UK wants to expand Heathrow Airport to accomodate substantial growth in air traffic over the next few decades. This requires tearing down 700 house or so at the Northern edge, and is estimated to complete around 2020. It’s hard to tell, but I *think* the economic model used is from a few years ago, and planned for $20-$30/barrel oil indefinitely. I’m expert on air traffic planning, but I hope the plan has better forecasts backed in by now.