After discussing the horrific fresh water problem facing Cape Town, last post, it got me thinking about countries that already have a history of water scarcities, like Israel, Saudi Arabia, Australia and others. My, wasn’t it Israel that lead the world in developing DESAL? I believe so. Not having remembered any blaring warnings in the major media with any serious health concerns about the industry (other than gripes about cost), I more or less had positive opinions for DESAL. With the ever-growing dilemma of water scarcity, could/would this then be a full solution, for any country, that invested in it as heavily as Israel has? Would this more or less guaranty success?
Over time I had read of Israel’s DESAL success and her successes in the consulting area for this technology. With the technical challenges now mostly all worked out, what about: DESAL for any demand that has all its political/ecological/engineering marbles in a row? Could/will that be their salvation?
Yours truly had not given this topic all that much thought until this late Cape Town emergency. Then, I remembered there was one such plant, newly completed in Monterey County, CA, (which the author visits several times a year) and has proven to be a very contentious endeavor, on myriad fronts. Is this what typically transpires with any community/government/private project with these price tags and technical complexities? That question was enough to challenge inertia, and after some full evenings of reading-up on the subject, my usual Pollyanna state of mind flip-flopped. Actually, somber mental currents that I am susceptible to when dwelling upon the danger and downside to nuclear power, I now also find surrounding me on this topic.
However, that new assessment represents the opposite to the author’s “can’t-wait-to-get-to-work” enthusiasm I held for DESAL as a young assistant to a ‘mad scientist’ who fervently experimented with different processes. When I say “mad” scientist, I mean it. My benefactor physicist was one of former President Ronald Regan’s ‘brains’ working on REAL Star Wars stuff, like ‘plasma space cannons’ and ‘electric’ deep-space rocket motors. (Herr Doktor eventually blew-up his lab on Revell Campus at UCSD.) (Young Pete the Plumber was playing hooky that day. Whew! ) Is it possible ole Doc re-discovered Cavorite?
A mention by Professor Yona Amitai, a Public health expert, speaking at a Bar Ilan University conference is quoted :
“…..initial results of Israeli studies point to an elevated mortality risk for myocardial infarction in areas where there is wide use of desalinated water.”
Now, that alone is something to mull over when considering the proliferation of DESAL. But unfortunately there are more, balloon-popping reasons why DESAL (as presently applied) cannot serve as a viable (politically/ecologically) model for solving future water needs on a larger scale, without major adaptions. (It is tremendously energy consuming; it produces and releases an environment threatening brine with twice the salt content of normal ocean water plus chemicals used in the process are also accompanying this discharge; enough aquaculture is killed in the process that it negatively affects commercial fisheries.) Another big health question is the Boron that exists in sea water, but not in fresh water, and which is left in the desalinated supply, a dangerous situation? There’s a lot to still learn.
Because the author has not owned a TV in almost 40 years, he’s enjoyed/enjoys a surfeit of time to indulge his eclectic reading ‘wants’. Because PtP happens to be a merman at heart, and once wondered if he could live more than a long walk (but preferably adjacent to) an ocean beach, and is at home in and on the water as ashore, most things water usually will grab my attention. Two of my major sources, a “regulars”, are the site for The Pacific Institute (headquartered in Oakland, California) and another: CEO Water Mandate. When the snowflakes are a cartwheeling or it’s wind and rain, the author especially thinks it’s time for the recliner and another log on the fire, and to pull the lap robe and spend the hours calmly discovering.
S. F. Chronicle
“…….fifty-four percent of California is abnormally dry at present.”
“…....seasonal Sierra snow melt accounts for about one-third of California’s water supply.”
“………present snow pack is close the all- time record low for this time of year.”
Are we so smug that we, of the U.S. completely disavow any possibility of Mother Nature choosing to “school us” like she’s now doing for Cape Town? Interesting times.
Peter Hemp is a San Francisco East Bay residential plumber and plumbing author and former R & D steam vehicle plumber. His hobbies are ocean kayaking and touring the Left Coast by bicycle.
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