Living near the ocean, in terms of water supply, is a blessing, but maybe an expensive one? The Santa Barbara, Calif., city council yesterday (Tues. 6/16/2015) voted to spend the $$$ to restart its old desalination project:
The City Council agreed to spend $3.7 million in the design phase of the project. However, this is just a fraction of the amount of money that will be needed to power up the entire desalination plant.
Restarting the desalination plant will cost approximately $55 million, and more than $4 million a year to operate it.
Santa Barbara Water Resources Manage Joshua Haggmark says that’s a sizable amount of money, however, based on the information he has, restarting the desalination plant is the only choice the City has.
Ocean water desalination in affluent coastal communities is a bit of a yo-yo: build plant in drought, don’t need it on the wet side of the cycle. Lather, rinse, repeat, as the Pacific Institute’s Amanda Pebler explained last summer:
The idea of building seawater desalination plants during a drought is not a new one. In 1991, a desalination plant in Santa Barbara was constructed in response to the 1987-1992 drought. Once the plant was completed, abundant rainfall rendered the plant cost-inefficient, and it shut down in 1992. Currently, costs to restart the plant are being assessed as the technology and infrastructure are dated and would incur new capital investment. Likewise, six seawater desalination plants were built in Australia in response to the Millennium Drought. Today, four out of the six plants are left idle due to the availability of cheaper alternatives. These examples should serve as cautionary tales.
More good Pacific Institute background here. (pdf)