Desalination Plants… Good or Bad?

Desalination according to the The American Heritage Science Dictionary is a process that removes minerals from seawater, brackish water, and other waste water. That in essence makes it able to be consumed by us. This current drought we are in has brought the Carlsbad desalination plant to our attention that is set to start operations very soon. The question now is whether this is really beneficial to us or actually a burden in disguise.

For those new to the subject of the desalination process, this is not the first time a desalination plant has been created to counter a drought. During the drought of the 80’s, Santa Barbara began building a desalination plant worth $34 million dollars, which was completed by 1992, the same time the drought ended and rain started pouring. The lesson thus thereafter: a big waste of money.

Desalination plants seem like a great idea when explained in a sentence or two, but critics of the concept will beg to differ.

Desalination Plant Cons:

  • Expensive: the overwhelming con of building desalination plants are the high costs involved, the Carlsbad plant has a price tag of over 1 billion dollars. In other words desalinated water will actually be more expensive than getting water from other sources.
  • Not only is it a burden financially but energy wise as well. The desalination progress requires high amounts of energy. Reverse osmosis involves screening out all the salt from saltwater, what happens with all that salt that is left over? It re-inserts the ocean, possibly destabilizing ecology around the outflows.
  • Greenhouse emissions: It is believed that desalination plants can be responsible for high amounts of greenhouse gas emissions which can be harmful to the environment and the air we breathe.
  • Australia has something different to say. They have built 6 desalination plants costing over $10 billion dollars.The environmental regulator has monitored the plants and there has been no environmental harm in their 8 years of operation. Also, all the plants have integrated renewable energy to be used. This an essence reflects a country that will be sustainable for a very long time even though there will be droughts in the future to worry about. Along with the proven success, there are these general pros to consider.

    Desalination Plant Pros:

  • Good for drinking: reverse osmosis allows us to consume water that is obtained from means that don’t interfere or affect the drought.
  • End the water crisis: we will always have access to water no matter if droughts and warmer climate present themselves.
  • Desalination plants are located far away from residential areas.
  • In my opinion, expensive or not, our generation and future generations can benefit from water security, and the fact it has been proven to not cause any environmental damage. The Carlsbad plant is expected to produce 50 million gallons of water per day,that’s 7 to 10% of the water needs of the San Diego region, that’s water for 112,000 families for many decades to come. In the end, the arguments for both sides are compelling, which side will you be on?

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