Tony Davis had a great story in the Daily Star over the weekend on the allure of desalination of ocean water as Arizona struggles with shrinking Colorado River supplies.
Tony’s excellent work on this question susses out the problems:
- ocean desal is costly, like really costly
- ocean desal is energy intensive, like really energy intensive
- desal is environmentally messy, like really environmentally messy, especially in the already damaged and fragile Gulf of California
A few key bits.
First ASU’s Kathy Ferris:
“We have to start taking care of our own house before we can be asking people to put money into new supplies,” said Kathy Ferris, a former Arizona Department of Water Resources director and an Arizona State University research fellow. “We’re not doing that. It’s too hard to say no, too hard to say we’re not going to do business as usual. Instead of trying to clean house, it’s easier to say we will go out and find more water and keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
USC’s Amy Childress:
Amy Childress, a civil-environmental engineering professor at the University of Southern California, has spent 20 years researching various processes using membranes for desalination, wastewater reclamation and water treatment in general. Asked about the potential for desalination by Arizona, she said, “I guess the key thing is, before going to ocean water desalination, qe have to ask have we done all the conserving we can do? Have we maximized wastewater reuse? Are there are opportunities to import that could be easier?
“I didn’t hear that whole plan out of the Arizona governor. I just heard something that seems like a quick fix, and I don’t think his plan is a quick fix,” Childress said.
A note on the journalism….
If you’re reading this, you’re probably someone who cares about western water issues in general, and likely the Colorado River Basin in particular. Tony’s work (along with that of quite a few a other folks working in the basin) is incredibly important to our shared understanding of the issues we face.
I don’t know if the link above will work for non-subscribers. I’m a paying subscriber to the Star. I know it’s hard for an individual to pony up to pay for all the publications doing this, but if you have the money to contribute to this ecosystem, do it. Subscribe to the Star, or subscribe somewhere.
If you’re one of my readers at the well-funded institutions working on these issues, get your institution to pay for a subscription! Journalism like this isn’t free to produce.