Tuesday, June 29, 2010

San Diego's residents will pay more for water AND electricity if we use desal.

There's a great article online in the Huffington Post about how desalination is not the answer for those of us responsible for water management planning.  The author, Peter Hanlon, makes a great point about how much energy is used.  In the case of San Diego, we'll use a lot more energy than our current practice which is to pump it out of the ground, and transport it thousands of miles for our use.  Desalination means an increase in our water bills AND our electric bills.  

He writes: 
"The process of converting salt water to drinking water is highly energy-intensive. In San Diego it takes eight times more electricity to produce about 325,000 gallons of water through desalination than it takes to pump the same amount of groundwater. Because desalinated water is so energy-dependent, water customers are vulnerable to rises in energy costs.

This is where desalination stumbles its way into the "energy-water nexus." In short, generating electricity requires a lot of water, while treating and moving water requires a lot of electricity. Desalination does not help to ease the burden of these interconnected demands, in fact it makes the situation worse.
Consider the added demand from a new desalination plant on the electric grid -- a grid fed by power plants that also require a tremendous amount of water for cooling. In other words, we're creating drinking water for one water-starved location using massive amounts of electricity generated with massive amounts of water somewhere else. Such a scenario raises an obvious question -- Does this make good sense?"
At Surfrider Foundation we say, "No, Mr. Hanlon, it does not."  In fact, to us it sounds a big circular scheme that ends up raising our bills, and making us dependent on a big-green-house-gas-spewing desalination plant, when we could conserve, or recycle.
Energy costs are predicted to sky-rocket in the coming decades too, so it does not make good financial sense to "invest" in something so expensive, when a major component of the water production has a cost that is only going up.
Here's a novel idea: how about we re-use what we already transported and PAID for?  Doesn't that make the most sense?  I mean, WE ALREADY OWN THE WATER.  So why are we dumping it in the ocean, only to turn around and PAY to desalt it?  

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Poseidon Resources has lost their resources.

Photo courtesy of OC Voice

From the latest in the financing debacle at Poseidon Resources:

“Poseidon has been claiming for years that they will be responsible for financing the desalination proposals in Carlsbad and Huntington Beach,” says Joe Geever, Policy Coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation. “This latest debacle in San Diego County just exposes what many have known all along — these proposals are almost completely reliant on public money.”

Poseidon did not respond to the Voice’s request for comment before press time.

Geever says that public water agencies should turn to other, proven, methods of water management.

“If we are going to spend public money on water projects, we should prioritize projects that are economically and environmentally superior — like expanding our local Groundwater Replenishment System and investing in conservation programs.”

Read the whole story.

Monday, June 21, 2010

And the Winner is..........

The winner of the voiceofsandiego.org essay contest is:

Indirect Potable Reuse: The Solution to San Diego’s Water Crisis

The author is Amy Cao, a Junior at La Jolla High School. Congratulations Amy for helping to spread this important message!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Our film, The Cycle of Insanity: The Real Story of Water has been accepted into the BLUE Oceans Film Festival

Drew and I, and the entire “Team Insanity” are stoked to report that the Surfrider Foundation film, Cycle of Insanity: The Real Story of Water has now been viewed over 8,000 times.  

We have also submitted the film to several festivals to help spread the word even farther and faster. 

The latest exciting news in that effort just came from the BLUE Oceans Film Festival organizers in Monterey, California:

Congratulations! Your film has been accepted into the BLUE Ocean Film Festival and will now be advanced to the next round of judging. All films ACCEPTED into the festival will be available for viewing in our video library throughout the events Aug 25-29. However, due to the number of films submitted we can only guarantee screenings for each category's finalists. The list of FINALISTS films will be announced in mid to late July. 
Best of luck in the next phase of competition and please extend our acknowledgments to your entire production team. We hope you or a member of your team can join us in Monterey to honor your work along with all the great ocean films of the 2010 festival. Thank you for participating in BLUE. Kindest Regards, Debbie Kinder, Executive Director

This festival, in Monterey California on August 24 to 29, will bring worldwide attention to our vision of water management reform and how it could restore our coasts and oceans. Past Finalists have included renowned producers like BBC, Discovery Channel, National Geographic and a list of other extremely talented and creative filmmakers.

If you visit the BLUE Oceans Film Festival website you will see that this is an honor to be accepted in the competition with some of the world’s most prestigious film producers working on ocean issues.

Please visit their website to get a sense of why we feel so proud to be accepted to the film competition. We hope the film will make the Finalist list and be screened at the festival. But just being accepted for consideration in such a prestigious festival is reason enough for our excitement and our continued dedication to the Surfrider Foundation mission. We will let you know as soon as we hear back from the BLUE Oceans Film Festival’s judges.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

No, I Guess They Don't

I titled the post below "High School Students Get It - Do Public Officials?"

I guess the answer (at least for now) is -- No.

High School Students Get It - Do Public Officials?

Voice of San Diego just published two essays by seniors at Patrick Henry High School. All Water is Wastewater by Kathryn Mogk points out that:

"The truth is that all water is wastewater. The earth is one large closed system which nothing can escape or enter; everything made of matter that we deal with is recycled. Physicists estimate that in every breath we take there is at least one molecule of air that was also in Julius Caesar’s last breath. If the air in our lungs has been breathed many times before, then, as little as we like to think about it, the water that we drink has also been drunk many times before it reaches us."

Toilet to Top of the Line Purification System to Tap
by Taylor Winchell discusses the justification for and viability of an indirect potable reuse system in San Diego:

"The fact of the matter is that no matter the source from which the water comes, it is all purified under the same quality standards and it is all equally safe to drink. Not only is the indirect potable reuse system safe, but it would also be economically cheaper and more environmentally friendly than a desalination option.

What is preventing San Diego from adopting this indirect potable reuse system appears to be the social repercussions associated with drinking purified wastewater. With declining amounts of water coming from vital import sources, however, the time is now for San Diego to get serious about local freshwater sustainability."

These two essays are finalists in the 2010 voiceofsandiego.org essay contest.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Poseidon Resources’ Carlsbad desalination factory subsidies would be withheld as a result of proposed lawsuit.

Water supply has always had a sordid, complicated history in So Cal.  The latest in San Diego is no exception:  the San Diego County Water Authority is suing the Metropolitan Water District (unless they can settle their dispute) over rates, which means that the much-needed subsidies to fund Poseidon Resources’ Carlsbad Desalination plant would be withheld as a result of the proposed lawsuit.  This is good news for our coast and ocean. The proposed Carlsbad ocean desalination facility uses enormous amounts of energy and unless they change the seawater intake system, it will kill millions of fish in the process. More importantly, Surfrider Foundation is advocating improvements to our water management that will be both economically superior to the desal facility AND result in improvements to our coast and ocean environment. See our vision for water management reform.

The Poseidon Resources desalination project has never been economically viable — even with all the subsidies.  (Poseidon themselves even admits it’s not feasible without the subsidies.) But what this news about the lawsuit means is that our San Diego County Water Authority will consider paying the subsidies that would have otherwise come from agencies all over southern California. It only seems fair that San Diego County pay its own way if they want to build a desalination factory for local agencies — even though it will mean higher prices to local ratepayers.  But we don’t believe they should build this factory at all.

We would like our Surfrider members and volunteers to attend the County Water Authority’s Board meeting to ensure that NO MORE OF OUR MONEY is used to subsidize this ill-conceived project.  We want to make it clear that they should spend our money on improved water conservation through efforts like our Ocean Friendly Gardens program -- and wastewater recycling like the Indirect Potable Reuse project. These efforts will dramatically reduce the energy we use transporting water, make our water supply local and reliable, and reduce pollution reaching our beaches — not kill fish and waste energy. It’s a win for the environment and a win for ratepayers.

We are also speaking out to ensure that Bud Lewis, Mayor of Carlsbad, and chair of the board, recuses himself from the debate and vote. Mayor Lewis has been an outspoken advocate for the Poseidon corporation and there is a clear conflict of interest if he is allowed to influence this vote.

Meeting details:
June 24  
3:00 p.m. – Board of Director’s meeting
(either 10 a.m. or 1:00 p.m., Committee meeting to approve recommendation to full Board)

4677 Overland Avenue
San Diego CA 92123

Please shoot us an email at water@surfridersd.org if you can attend.  We need as many people as there as possible to help us speak out.

BTW, George J. Janczyn has a great summary on his blog if you want to read all the stories related to this issue.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Water Hour Is Tonight at 8 p.m. Local Time

Water Hour offers the opportunity to think about water for one hour tonight and get inspired or even come up with a plan of action. The web site provides ideas for conserving water as well as your favorite moments with water. Water keeps us alive but it also provides some good entertainment!

Brought to You by Water
Surfing, kayaking, canoeing, scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, water polo, diving, waterskiing, wakeboarding, boating, jet skiing, kite surfing, windsurfing, sailing, rowing, skimboarding, rafting, water parks, whale watching, bodysurfing, slip‘n slide, dancing in the rain, snowboarding, skiing, snowmobiling, dogsledding, bobsled, ice skating, sledding, ice sculptures, snowcones, snowballs, snowmen, ice luge, ice cubes, clouds

What is your favorite moment with water? And maybe more importantly, how would it affect you if there wasn’t enough?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Water Recycling and Resource Recovery

More and more, the water and wastewater worlds are starting to intersect, as engineers, managers, planners and public officials begin to realize that "wastewater" and its components can be valuable resources.

In the San Francisco Bay area, the Woods Institute for the Environment recently hosted a dialogue on resource recovery from wastewater - specifically, how systems for wastewater management and water reuse should be defined for the San Francisco Bay Area in the 2020s. The dialogue brought together consultants, researchers, water quality agencies and government and industry leaders to inform planning efforts and align research with those efforts.

The discussion focused on state-of-the-art technologies for water reuse and energy recovery from wastewater; and ideas for use of reclaimed water for ecosystem restoration and non-potable reuse applications, extraction of renewable energy, use of nutrients and financing and development of distributed and centralized wastewater treatment systems around the Bay. Workshop outcomes will help to promote investments to revitalize Bay Area water and wastewater infrastructure, improve the stability of Bay area ecosystems, increase the security and reliability of freshwater supplies, decrease dependence upon imported freshwater, and increase renewable energy generation. The expected solutions will convert current liabilities (e.g., energy required for wastewater treatment) into assets (e.g., energy from wastewater treatment). More

Another indication of a paradigm shift in the wastewater industry was a decision to rename the Golden Hills Sanitation Company in Tehachapi, CA as Brite Canyon Resource Recovery. The company is expanding their capacity from 25,000 gallons per day to 1 million gallons per day and will send their tertiary treated wastewater to Tom Sawyer lake, improving the water quality there.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Peak Water?

National Geographic just published an article titled Passing the Point of "Peak Water" Means Paying More for H2O.

You might be thinking: How can we have passed the point of peak water? How can there be a "peak water" when water is never used up? The answer is that because all fresh water supply and use is essentially local, water in that local area can be transferred, extracted, used, misused and thoughtlessly discarded faster than natural forces can replace it. Consequently, the Colorado River or Lake Mead or [insert your local river, lake or reservoir] may be drying up. Not only does that create a drinking water shortage, it severely impacts the ecology in and around that water body.

What the localized "peak water" condition also causes (as is the case with all imbalances of supply and demand) is high prices. Many experts, including the late water guru Ron Linsky, have written extensively about the value of water. Specifically, they make the point that we have tremendously undervalued water, and thereby have over-stimulated demand and encouraged waste, which also creates pollution.

So, higher water prices are coming, and that's not altogether a bad thing from a resource protection perspective.

What we can do to help mitigate shortages, higher costs and pollution is to advocate for water conservation and reuse. Peak water is not inevitable if we "Know Our H2O" and implement practices that can make our water systems sustainable.