Angela Haren Kelley*
While droughts and water supply challenges have plagued California for decades, climate change will increase the strain on California’s water management system. Seawater desalination—the process of removing salt and other minerals from seawater—is often hailed as the solution to the state’s water supply challenges. However, proposals to build seawater desalination plants, which demand enormous quantities of energy, could be a shortsighted fix that will ultimately exacerbate climate change due to corresponding greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This article explores seawater desalination and alternative strategies for California to adapt to climate change, and concludes that an effective adaptation approach will require strategies to reduce GHG emissions.
Seawater desalination plant in South Korea. Photo credit to roplant.