Environment Forum

California green lights controversial desalinization plant


The California Public Utilities Commission has approved a controversial desalinization plant for the Monterey Peninsula on the state’s central coast that will solve the region’s water woes but at a high price.

The California American Water Company, known as Cal-Am, and local agencies will form a partnership to build and operate the $297.5 million desalinization project to replace supplies drawn from the Carmel River, the historical source of the region’s water.

To protect the Carmel River, the California Water Resources Control Board had ordered Cal-Am to stop diverting water by Dec. 31, 2016

“The Monterey Peninsula has been struggling to find solutions to the water supply deficit for decades,” the public utilities commission noted in its decision issued Thursday. “We emphasize the history to provide a context for our decision to reach outside the usual procedure and to approve a costly desalination project as a reasonable solution.”

Commissioners acknowledged that the project, which will desalinate 3.4 billion gallons of water a year, will result in a 63 percent rate hike for local residents.

A better way to clean water?


Treating water for human consumption is costly and energy intensive. Is there a more efficient way to do it?

Gunter Pauli thinks so.

In the first innovation explored by PhD, entrepreneur and eco-designer Pauli in the ZERI Foundation’s two-year essay and video project The Blue Economy, 100 Innovations, 100 Million Jobs, the self cleansing mechanism found in natural water sources is identified as a possible solution to treating water without the huge cost in chemicals and energy.

Rivers clean their own water all the time, and for free, Pauli says in his essay. Their secret? A combination of gravity and a swirling motion called the vortex. If there were a way to replicate that function in water treatment facilities, it would mean energy savings and less cost for producers down to consumers.

Overcoming the ‘ick’ factor of wastewater recycling

After an hourlong tour of the world’s largest wastewater recycling plant, where 70 milion gallons of pre-treated sewer discharge is distilled daily to help replenish the underground drinking supply of Orange County, California, I was led to a sink with a faucet. There I was presented with a plastic cup and invited to take a sip.

Crystal clear and utterly tasteless, the sample was refreshing and perfectly safe for human consumption.  Some minerals are actually reintroduced to the water before it’s pumped back out of the ground for general consumer use.

Michael Markus, general manager of the Orange County Water District and the chief engineer behind the plant, assured me that the water exceeds all government drinking standards, even though the state requires the county to put it into the local aquifer — for additional natural filtration — before offering it to the public.