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California’s Unlimited Water Supply

Posted on Monday, October 10, 2022
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by Outside Contributor
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None of my columns have ever generated as many emails and phone calls as the recent series about the Colorado River, draining Lake Powell, and California’s abuse of its entitled share. When the Bureau of Reclamation decided to give that state a complete pass, instead cutting supplies yet again for Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico, many concluded that neither the Bureau nor California are serious about solutions.

We all understand the drought has affected the entire West, creating water shortages in every state, and drastically lowering water levels in reservoirs. But in the Colorado River water debates, California has always had an advantage over the other states – 840 miles of coastline on the Earth’s largest body of water. At least half of the people I heard from asked the simple question, why can’t they use the Pacific Ocean?

People cannot drink saltwater, obviously, but saltwater can be turned into freshwater. The process is called “desalination,” and a growing chorus of people insist that California spend some of its vast resources investing in that technology, to end to the otherwise endless battles over the Colorado River.

Observers took heart last month when Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled a new water plan for his state. It includes 4 million acre-feet of new storage; 1.3 million acre-feet of reuse, recycling, and conservation; and “making new water available for use by… desalinating ocean water and salty water in groundwater basins.” Finally, the state plans to take advantage of its ocean, as others have been advising for decades.

Sadly, the plan is long on goals but short on specifics. It calls for new reservoir storage but identifies projects that would store far less than the stated goal. It claims to protect existing water rights but says the state will “consider adopting regulations that would allow for curtailments of water rights in years when there is not a declared drought emergency.” Most disappointing, it names no specific desalination project, but asks water agencies to identify those with potential, so the state can “consider investing in grants” – to local governments, not desalination companies. But the provision bordering on outright falsehood is this gem: The water agency “will continue to guide research investments towards technological breakthroughs that solve California desalination challenges.”

Are they kidding? There is no technological barrier to California using the ocean to supply all its water, no “breakthrough” needed. They may have a problem with political will, but they do not have a problem with science.

That matters because we have seen, recently, how Californians react to desalination projects. In May, the California Coastal Commission, bowing to public opposition, unanimously voted down a desalination plant in Huntington Beach that was over 20 years in the planning. Its owner, Poseidon Water, has a track record with a similar-sized plant it operates in San Diego, producing nearly 50 million gallons a day and serving 400,000 people, at a cost of half a penny a gallon. There are 14 miniscule desalination plants in California, all of which combined produce barely 89,000 acre-feet of water a year. That’s a tenth of the water Blue Mesa Reservoir holds.

California’s only issue is cost. It is cheaper to take water from Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado, and to drain Lakes Powell and Mead, than to purify ocean water. But technological breakthroughs? That horse left the barn decades ago. There are over 18,000 desalination plants all over the world, providing water for 300 million people – nearly ten times the population of California. 

Australia has six major plants producing the equivalent of 400 million gallons a day. A new plant just commissioned in the UAE already supplies 100 million gallons per day and will double by the end of the year. Israel produces half a billion gallons a day at five major desalination plants, and two more are being built. There are huge plants operating in Kuwait, Qatar, Libya, Algeria, and Bahrain.

The concept is not new or unproven, whatever West Coast politicians think. Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest country with no river, pioneered the technology in the 1950s out of necessity. Today it is the world’s leading desalinated water producer, generating almost seven billion gallons daily, 60 percent of the entire country’s water. Maybe it’s expensive, but it’s hard to be sympathetic to California’s “desalination challenges.” The state has the world’s fifth largest economy, with a GDP of $2.6 trillion, larger than any of the above countries.

Newsom said, “As California becomes hotter and drier, we must become more resourceful with the strategic opportunity… to build water resilience.” Build resilience? How about using your enviable unlimited supply to create total water independence?

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PaulE
PaulE
1 year ago

1) The state government in California has mismanaged their water resources for years and years. They routinely flush hundreds of millions of gallons of water, that results from the annual winter ice melts, into the Pacific supposedly to save a smelt. So score another one for bad Democrat policies resulting in mutiple bad effects.

2) The “green agenda” is about halting all man-made economic activity and returning the planet to the pristine conditions that existed before mankind emerged from caves. At the very least, most senior leaders of the environmental movement will admit to wanting to return the planet to the time before the industrial revolution when there were far fewer people, cities and towns. That means returning to a purely agrarian society. That means getting rid of 99 percent of the people on the planet. Ending all modern nations as we know them today and reducing society to small towns or villages completely reliant on what they can grow to support themselves without any modern farm machinery or fertilizers. See the recent wars on the use of fertilizer and farm equipment in Europe and Asia for the last part.

3) California Democrats will NEVER agree to the construction of desalinatization plants to augment the water needs of the state. Such plants should have been authorized and built 20 years ago in anticipation of the need. However, such a decision would fly in the face of items 1 and 2 listed above. Just like they won’t allow drilling for oil and natural gas in the state, nor the construction of new natural gas or nuclear plants in the state, the Democrats will oppose anything that will detract from the their environmental goals. If that means we’ll soon be seeing further water rationing or areas of the state unable to access any water at all, then the Democrats have NO PROBLEM doing that.

Understand that the people running California have NO INTEREST in solving problems they have created. They are pursuing an agenda that will foster greater dependency on the government. That means more and more control of the people by the state. Which helps ensure continued power in the hands of the Democrats.

Bill on the Hill
Bill on the Hill
1 year ago

Welcome to The Green New Deal, California style… They have been sucking off the western state’s water sources forevermore & I do NOT see that paradigm changing anytime soon…I’m waiting with bated breath for the Continental Divide to crack wide open & send California into the Pacific, done…
California is a drag on the entire nation, it is large enough to become it’s own nation, in fact politicians like Gruesome Newsom & numerous other politicos act in this manner on a daily basis…
Mayors & governors in CA can’t even put a dent in the homeless population problem along with their rampant drug addictions throughout the homeless camps in most of their major cities…
California has become a vile dead-end street…Certain cities in the states to their immediate north are no better where the homeless are concerned in particular with all those attendant problems that comes with it…
As a former truck driver, now retired, I’ve been to CA several times during the mid ’90’s & after each visit, I couldn’t get out of that state fast enough!

CharlieSeattle
CharlieSeattle
1 year ago

alifornia created its own problems on purpose.

Neal Valenta
Neal Valenta
1 year ago

The Governor of California must be smoking to much of his legal weed. They must turn salt water into drinking water. But I am sure he would pass the cost on to the tax payers of California. He has no back bone for the real issues that face his state and He Needs TO GO.

Martha Keller
Martha Keller
1 year ago

How about allowing rain catchment for individual homes especially in areas prone to mud slides. Add a solar water pump, instant irrigation to mitigate spread of brush fires, etc

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
1 year ago

But Gov wont tap & seen No actions for:
Creating rain
Collecting storm surge rain
Offshore desalination
anyplace
Thanks Newsom

john sylvester nunan
john sylvester nunan
1 year ago

how anybody vote for these guys, power and money or money and power

Nick Murphy
Nick Murphy
1 year ago

I don’t know why the effect in States plus Mexico don’t Sue California. Take them to court and force them to do something or fine them so much they go bankrupt they’re on the way anyway… just make part of the settlement that they cannot be bailed out by the federal government if they go bankrupt they’re out of luck go live in the streets and poop on the sidewalk like everybody else does

Jeb
Jeb
1 year ago

If they solve a problem, they would have nothing to rail about. Anyway, they have enough water to take long hot showers, fill the pool, do multiple loads of laundry and dishes, water the yard…what’s your problem?

Mario Capparuccini
Mario Capparuccini
1 year ago

If the California liberals build desalination plants they will solve their water problems and thus lose a crisis that they can exploit to exert more control over the populace. Solve a crisis? We can’t do that! Saul Alinsky would turn over in his grave.

William C Smith
William C Smith
1 year ago

More articles like this are needed to jolt the citizens into action. Dissolve the Coastal Commission and banish them no less than a hundred miles from any body of water. Stop building that stupidly-conceived train and focus on the real problem, which Wikipedia shows has been a constant in CA history since at least 1841, right through 2020 and continuing to this day. Jay Obernolte recently transmitted an activity report to his constituents describing a major state shortcoming as having insufficient water storage capacity and demonstrating his support for digging more holes around the state to contain all that rainfall—should it ever come–instead of concentrating on the real solution—Make More Water! Build storage capacity next to the greatest number of users, the cities concentrated with consumers Is it 70% of the earth’s surface is covered with water, and this country allows droughts to interfere with sustenance and commerce? Who do these politicians, office-holders and their public service accomplices really serve? Certainly not the people. Gather up the homeless and put them to work digging ditches for piplelines to distribute new supplies of fresh water created by seaside desalination plants on-shore and roving sea-going plants plying the coastal waters. The solutions have been obvisous since at least the early Fifties. Yet, the people tolerate politicians with other priorities and projects. Oh, and those sea-going desalination vessels> American shipyards would havae to be revitalized to build and outfit those ships, creating more jobs in every manufacturing sector. Better than throwing our money to support and sustain other countries with which we seem to have no economic ties.

Charles
Charles
1 year ago

The Land Of Fruits & Nut’s ( California ) can not only desalinate ocean water for it’s own use but also for other states if they only found a new Government to see the future .Newsome has to go along with his friends – Biden & Company

P2burner
P2burner
1 year ago

“…Desalination in Israel today Today, Israel gets a whopping 55 percent of its domestic water supply from desalinated seawater and brackish groundwater. Producing 150 million cubic meters each year, Israel’s Sorek desalination plant is the largest in the world! It alone provides 20 percent of the potable water that Israel consumes.”… California is focused on making sure children know all about drag queens, yet b*tch about the technology required to desalinate a great resource to grow crops and put out fires.

anna hubert
anna hubert
1 year ago

This should have been the topic decades ago not electric cars and turbines in snowy states but that would make sense and that will not do

Chris
Chris
1 year ago

California is out of control and nobody stops them

Patriot Will
Patriot Will
1 year ago

Newsom is basically playing gangster by taking more than his fair share of the waters that should be shared impartially among different neighboring states. Instead of being a team player, he unethically “steals” water from other states, because he doesn’t want to invest the money to build plants that can make the waters from the ocean drinkable and agricultural. The technology has been here for decades; but Newsom would rather waste money on green energy and force the inhabitants of California to suffer by refusing to produce the fossil fuels that are needed to meet the energy needs of the citizens of The Golden State.

michael deprisco
michael deprisco
1 year ago

He’s a Democrat they just beat their chest and scream without any real solutions just lip service

james carlyle
james carlyle
1 year ago

Like other CaliforniaFables this water plan is destined for the same fate as the High Speed Train Caper, which now has a static reinforced concrete memorial in the Central Valley which allegedly has cost somewhere North of 30 Billion USD with a completion estimate of 113 billion USD.

Kyle Buy you some guns,and learn how to shoot
Kyle Buy you some guns,and learn how to shoot
1 year ago

Why not the ghreat lakes. Other sections of U .S. go dry from time to time. We need a presadent who would see to this. My vision is a system of pipes from great lakes to headwaters all around the country,sort of like the imnterstate Hwy. system. Placve cut offs where needed. Such a tremendus project would put thousands to work and boost the economy to no end. All should have water. Now lets go drink a beer. Kylre L.

Dave Campbell
Dave Campbell
1 year ago

When you understand that the goal of the left is not to solve problems but create dysfunction and chaos, so a desperate population will then accept a totalitarian marxist system to replace the “failed” capitalist system, it all makes sense.

Jeff Ford
Jeff Ford
1 year ago

Newsom is the Grand Lord of Scarcity.

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