By Dan Arel
Californians are about to get their water from a new source – the Pacific Ocean, as Governor Jerry Brown’s new plan to save the state is set to launch next year. The governor passed mandatory water conservation restrictions this past April in a massive effort to cut water usage, but critics have warned that mere conservation will not be enough to save the state’s severe water shortage.
California is experiencing the worst drought in its history, and according Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the state only has about one year of water left in storage. “As our ‘wet’ season draws to a close, it is clear that the paltry rain and snowfall have done almost nothing to alleviate epic drought conditions,” he wrote in op-ed earlier this year for The Los Angeles Times. “January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows. We’re not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we’re losing the creek too.”
So the governor is kicking his new plan into action. With several ocean desalination plants already up and running in a handful of towns around the state, a new and much larger plant is now underway. The new plant in Huntington Beach would supply water to the heavily populated Orange County region.
The Huntington Beach plant would be the biggest in the western hemisphere and would produce 189 million litres (50 million gallons) of drinking water a year. The downside is that in for every 2 litres of water that go in, only 1 will come out, and the leftover super-salty brine would mix in with the city’s wastewater before being piped back out to sea to spread around, about 50 km offshore. And this salty brine, along with financial concerns, have environmentalists questioning the governor’s plan.
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