Santa Barbara Looks to Ocean Desalination
With the drought becoming bad and only 30% of water left in the groundwater resevoirs, Santa Barbara is looking to reopen the Charles E. Meyer Desalination Facility to get water from the ocean. Desalination is the process of taking ocean water and taking out the salt to make it drinkable and usable. The plant was built in the late 1980's for $34 million during California's last big drought, and was shut down after rains started again. In June, the city is going to vote to renovate the pipes for $40 million dollars or bury the pipes.
This process is the last resort, as it is the most expensive and has huge environmental risks and a high economic cost. The pipes sucking up water from the ocean can trap ocean life such as fish and plankton and can disrupt the natural ecosystem in these areas. Additionally, the cost for 1 acre foot of water is about $3000 to last a family one year, an increase from $2,000 it costs currently and increasing the water bill of each family from $80 a month to $108 a month. The plant currently provides 3, 125 acres foot of water, but will need to be increased to 10,000 acres feet a year to provide for Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is not the only city resorting to desalination for water supply. Arabian countries have been doing this for decades and an $1 billion dollar facility is set to open in San Diego that will produce 50 million gallons of water a day or 7.5% of San Diego's Water Supply.
This public debate brings into question Environmental Stewardship and Call to Community, Family, and Participation. It is unnatural to put pipes into the ocean that could trap and kill wildlife for continuous water supply that could damage the ecosystem in the area. It is also the most expensive option, and would take copious amounts of energy to produce, which would lead to more coal and fossil fuel consumption and release even more pollutants into the air. On the other hand, this really effects low-income families and those on a limited budget because the price of water would increase approximately $28 a month, an amount many simply can't afford but will have to pay because water is a survival need. Having this as a backup source also creates a sense that people can use as much water as they please, which is absolutely not the case and would only harm wildlife further and drive the costs up as more water would be desalinated. In order to make this work, the entire community will have to continue to conservatively use water and work together to help each other maintain these goals. Everyone in the community will need to participate in keeping the water consumption low.
I believe that desalination plants, although expensive, should be built because it is better for the environment than building dams and using up groundwater. If regulated so people still use it conservatively, I think that it is a safe alternative so that people don't run out of freshwater in coastal regions that have drought. I think that we should also invest in technology that would prevent wildlife from being sucked up into these pipes so that the ecosystem is destroyed.
Some are saying that we are opening this desalination facility in "a state of panic" and that we should wait and take our time to figure out other low cost alternatives. Do you agree with this or believe that opening desalination facilities is the best solution with the bad drought that we currently have?
Rogers, Paul. "California Drought: Santa Barbara Looks to Ocean Desalination for New Water; Are Other Cities Next?" San Jose Mercury News. N.p., 7 Apr. 2015. Web. 19 Apr. 2015.