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This article (SEAWATER DESALINATION: CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION STRATEGY OR CONTRIBUTOR?) was posted December 2011. Two years later, in December 2013, California is experiencing the effects of the driest calendar year on record. This article does not address the very real possibility and dangers of a water emergency and its consequences for society. When there is low or no rainfall or snowfall, and water is scarce or not available for human consumption, there might be nothing to conserve - so, while conservation is essential in conjunction with any water scenario, and must not be considered an alternative to desalination, but an essential part of any water policy.

Conservation must be part of any water program - a low flow toilet is useless without water needed to operate it. Environmental uses for water are not cancelled in dry years, putting additional pressures on water agencies. There is no storm water runoff to capture when there are no storms.

People may be willing to pay the high costs of desalination when there aren't any alternatives. Worries about the GHG emissions of a desalination plant powered by fossil fuels pale in the face of a water emergency, especially when one considers the non-stop flow of traffic on California roads and freeways.

Seawater desalination technology is advancing:

The World Water Desalination industry to grow at a Compounded Annual Growth Rate of 9.51 % over the period 2012-16. One of the key factors contributing industry development is the need for safe water. The International Water Desalination industry has also been seeing increased government projects in the Water industry. However, the possibility of water desalination putting the ocean ecosystem at risk could pose a challenge to the development of this market.

It's a tough call this one. It can't really be calculated what impact this is having on the environment as not enough testing has been done. The UK is running it's own tests at the moment to see what the effects on marine life are. These will be out in 2014.

This was a really enlightening article. I didn't know that the lack of fresh water for California was so imminent, and it's important to address the realities of meeting our need for potable water. I wish that the author could have put desalinization in a larger context with other solutions and talk the cost of providing clean water ($/lb of water, as well as lb Co2/lb of water) for all the different approaches and how much she could imagine desalinization providing on a cost-effective basis.

Importantly however, I think the point about using renewable energy to power desalinization plants is a bit disingenuous. Providing renewable energy to power a desalinization plant would come at a cost of using renewable energy to power the grid; the desalinization plant would not "operate" with zero carbon dioxide emissions since the plant still requires energy. The best that the plant might do is to mitigate some of its emissions with cogeneration or use some sort of process to capture the byproduct.

Interesting & informative article. It would've been nice for the possibility of using renewable energy sources to power desalination plants to have received a bit more treatment, and for the author to have discussed sub-seafloor intakes in some detail. As a layperson, I'm left questioning the feasibility of the former and the benefits/drawbacks of the latter.

Additionally, while I understand the author's desire to use desalinization as a substitute for other water sources and thereby minimize water importing, the result of doing so is confusing because of the expected increase in demand. The author herself makes note of the substantial population growth expected over the next few years and decades; even maximizing the urban water conservation possibilities discussed, like using more efficient appliances and fixing leaks, will not prevent a net increase in demand for water in the coming years. Shouldn't desalinization plants, if they can be implemented with minimal GHG and marine biology effect, be allowed to contribute to addressing the growth in demand?

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