Can Desal Help with the Drought? CBS2 News Investigates
CBS2 looks at desalination as a drought-proof water supply that is needed now more than ever. UCLA professor of Chemistry and Bio-molecular Engineering Youram Cohen agrees.
(CBSLA.com) — In light of California’s escalating drought emergency, the onetime dream of President John F. Kennedy of obtaining fresh water from salt water may become a reality in the very near future.
The process of getting usable fresh water from salt water, called desalination, stems from a technology that is already accepted worldwide, according to UCLA Professor of Chemistry and Bio-Molecular Engineering, Youram Cohen.
“It’s a technology that is now in widespread use all around the world, and I think that, in time, this is what we will see,” Cohen said.
UCLA has reportedly developed a number of small desalination plants, including one at Port Hueneme near Ventura, that are said to be capable of producing clean drinking water for up to 24,000 people each day at a fraction of the cost of ground water that is imported by municipal water districts in California.
“It is a lot cheaper than bottled water, and, I should say, that water is very tasty,” Cohen said.
Additionally, contrary to the idea that desalination plants may be harmful to the environment, Professor Cohen says that global evidence suggests that the discharge from desalination plants may actually be beneficial to marine life.
“The Australians will show you that marine life is (thriving more) in the area of discharge from the desalination plants than elsewhere,” Cohen suggested.
A number of environmental organizations, however, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and The Orange County Coast Keeper, are yet to be convinced of the potential benefits of desalination.
“Our stance on desalination plants is that it is a potential source for the future,” Orange County Coast Keeper’s Ray Hiemstra said. “We have a lot of work to do in developing desalination technology to where it is not as expensive and better for the environment. So, that’s what we need to do; experiment, find out what’s going to work and take our time and it will be a source for the future.”
California’s first major desalination plant is currently under construction in Carlsbad, with a scheduled launch date some time in 2016, after a number of regulations are met.
While a number of scientists and environmentalists believe desalination is the technological wave of the future, the debate over when, or if, that future will ever become reality, continues.