Friday, April 3, 2009

Desalinization vs. sustainability

As communities throughout the arid West look for even more water to fuel even more growth, desalinization always seems to pop up.

During the last big drought in the late 1980's, the City of Ventura designated 'desal' as the preferred backup, although there are no plans yet. But throughout California, several proposals for desal plant construction are making their way through the permitting process.

Although for cities on the edge of the Pacific Ocean it seems like a natural 'go-to' source, there are many issues with separating the salt from seawater to produce potable drinking water. Apart from the fact that it uses a tremendous amount of energy, ocean intakes and outfalls have impacts to coastal ecosystems. A summary of the issue may be found here:

Surfrider Foundation Coastal A-Z

Some say that environmentalists must learn to compromise, and desal may be the 'ultimate solution' for cities dependent on dwindling supplies of imported water.

But within the Ventura River watershed, we have the opportunity for sustainability through the wise use of existing resources. With a little imagination, we can modernize our water systems as part of an ecosystem-based management strategy, so that we don't have to fall back on expensive energy-consuming desalinization.