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California desalination tech: Drought has officials looking at seawater drinking

California desalination technology is ramping up, as state officials are desperately looking for other options to combat the epic drought that has hit the West coast. As the video showed, California generally receives half of its annual rainfall during the winter’s rainy months. This year, the state is severely lacking in rainfall and water from snow covered mountains.

According to NBC News on Monday, the state is “besieged by drought and desperate for new sources of water,” so individual California towns are now looking “to convert salty ocean water into drinking water to quench their long-term thirst.”

Exceptionally arid conditions across the state have a whopping 91.6 percent of California in a severe to exceptional drought. Agricultural areas are suffering the worst, and the lack of ideal growing seasons are expected to drive up the cost of produce nationwide.

The process of desalination, however, is energy intensive and thus very expensive.

California currently has seventeen plants along the Pacific coast in the planning stages, but the earliest that one would be ready to start converting salt water into drinking water is the year 2020, says the San Francisco Gate.

If the plant was kick-started earlier, it would produce at least 20 million gallons a day of drinkable water.

“I think it will turn out that it is very affordable compared to not having the water here in Southern California, particularly with the drought that we are facing and the fact that the governor has just cut off the flow of water from north to south in the aqueduct,” said Randy Truby, the comptroller for the International Desalination Association.

Critics call the multi-billion dollar effort to convert rainwater a project too big to rush into – despite the harsh drought conditions.

“In light of the extreme drought in California, people are wondering how quickly desalination plants can come on line," said Christiana Peppard, a professor of theology at Fordham University and a notable fresh water ethics advocate. "But desalination is not a panacea. It's only as good as the contexts in which it is deployed and the goals that are set for it."

David Helvarg, executive director of Blue Frontier, an ocean preservation group, said planning also has to be given to the oceans, not just the impact on the land.

"There are constant environmental challenges involved with desalination," he said. "It's energy-intensive and can do harm to the fish and marine life with the way it works. It has to be done right."

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