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Desalination, With a Grain of Salt - A California Perspective


Pacific Institute
2008


Long considered the Holy Grail of water supply, desalination
offers the potential of an unlimited source of fresh water
purified from the vast oceans of salt water that surround us.
The public, politicians, and water managers continue to hope
that cost-effective and environmentally safe ocean
desalination will come to the rescue of water-short regions.
While seawater desalination plants are already vital for
economic development in many arid and water-short areas of the
world, many plants are overly expensive, inaccurately
promoted, poorly designed, inappropriately sited, and
ultimately useless. To avoid new, expensive errors,
policymakers and the public need to take a careful look at the
advantages and disadvantages of desalination and develop clear
guidance on how to evaluate and judge proposals for new facilities.

In Desalination, With a Grain of Salt A California
Perspective, the Pacific Institute provides a comprehensive
overview of the history, benefits, and risks of ocean
desalination, and the barriers that hinder more widespread use
of this technology, especially in the context of recent
proposals for a massive increase in desalination development
in California.

The potential benefits of ocean desalination are great, but
the economic, cultural, and environmental costs of wide
commercialization remain high. In many parts of the world,
alternatives can provide the same freshwater benefits of ocean
desalination at far lower economic and environmental costs.
These alternatives include treating low-quality local water
sources, encouraging regional water transfers, improving
conservation and efficiency, accelerating wastewater recycling
and reuse, and implementing smart land-use planning.



 

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