Thursday, April 9, 2009

WTF? or Water, Water Everywhere but...

This morning’s newspapers had a couple of articles about issues here in San Diego County that literally caused me to ask myself the classic question—WTF??

One article dealt with the Metropolitan Water Agency which serves most of Southern California and apparently has a great deal of control over water supplies which come via both the Colorado River and the California Aqueduct from northern California. It said that the winter’s snowpack in NorCal was only about 80% of normal, water supplies were critical and that the San Diego area would see a reduction in water supply in the 10 to 15% range.

That in and of itself is pretty ominous. This is a desert climate with low levels of annual rainfall. Of course, municipalities have never seen fit to require things like drought resistant yards and landscaping (like seen in areas like Phoenix or Albuquerque) or the use of grey water for non-drinking water purposes like irrigation. Or even (gasp!) some sort of restrictions on pubic water use for residential swimming pools or spas. Hey! Drinking water is for drinking and cooking not golf course greens or pools. But that’s a whole other rant for me.

The other article dealt with the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board and its ongoing skirmishing with Poseidon Company which is trying to get approval to build a seawater desalination plant next to a power plant in Carlsbad. The plant would re-use the seawater that the power plant currently uses for cooling and would desalinate the water into drinking water and could provide for up to 9% of the freshwater available in San Diego County when it goes online.

Well, apparently the Water Quality Control Board has some issues (like for the last 6 years) on “mitigation lands” the plant has to buy and restore so that endangered species have a refuge. The Board now wants to require a doubling of the lands from 55 to 110 acres. It’s because of fish which may be harmed by the plant’s intake which, according to experts, comes to the amount of fish that would be eaten each day by 2 pelicans.

You can kind of see where this is heading can’t you? Let’s see—not enough water from sources hundreds of miles away. A whole big ocean at our back door. A bureaucracy putting more impediments in place. 2 pelicans. Yep. WTF?

The bad news is that there is less fresh water available from traditional sources. The good news is that there’s a whole ocean out there and the technology exists to take the salt and minerals out of it and make it drinkable fresh water, even though it’s expensive. The better news is that global warming will mean that there’s more ocean water on its way as the ice caps melt, etc. The technology for desalination is expensive (too bad the investment wasn’t made a quarter century ago when this same problem existed but the technology was cheaper), but it’s only going to get more costly and the need is only going to become more acute.

You’d think that…Oh for crying out loud, nevermind. It’s all kind of ridiculous the way things are approached isn’t it? But, let’s see, 2 pelicans vs. 9% of the County’s water supply. Sounds like a no-brainer to me. Yeah, right. My opinion and $2.00 will buy me a cup of coffee at any Denny’s.

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