River Beat: Yuma Desalting Plant Dedication

outflow channel from the Yuma Desalting Plant, which will begin its test phase next week

outflow channel from the Yuma Desalting Plant, which will begin its test phase next week

Joyce Lobeck reports on yesterday’s festivities in Yuma to mark next week’s start of the Yuma Desalting Plant test run:

On Monday, the desalting plant will be started up for a yearlong demonstration run that will produce about 29,000 acre-feet of desalinated water. That means 29,000 acre-feet of water – enough to serve 116,000 people for one year – can remain upriver in Lake Mead.

Not only that, the operation at one-third capacity will provide valuable information about the plant’s condition and performance. This information will be critical in future decisions on whether or how to operate the plant on a long-term basis to stretch water resources in the desert Southwest, said Mike Connor, commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

29,000 acre feet on a 16.5 million acre foot system is a rounding error, but the symbolism here is not. In the realm of political signaling, it’s worthy of note that two of the biggest shots in western water were there – the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s Pat Mulroy and Mike Connor, head of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Add in the 70,000 acre feet in estimated annual water savings associated with the Drop 2 storage reservoir nearly completed on the All-American Canal (a bonus add-on to yesterday’s ceremony) and you’re starting to talk about real water here. But more importantly, these two projects, and the symbolism surrounding them, provide some picture of the engineering and institutional approaches Colorado River water managers see going forward for this horribly over-allocated river.

I don’t whether it was an omission in the story, or in the event, however, but it’s potentially noteworthy that there was no mention of the folks working on the Cienega de Santa Clara, which represents the environmental tail end of the problems happening upstream.

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