The ocean as drought-buster

Re “Drought so­lu­tion has high costs,” Col­umn, April 26

Los Angeles Times - - OPINION -

Michael Hiltzik’s crit­i­cism of build­ing more de­sali­na­tion plants in Cal­i­for­nia is coun­ter­pro­duc­tive to ad­dress­ing the drought. With 38 mil­lion peo­ple and a large agri­cul­tural in­dus­try, Cal­i­for­nia can ill af­ford to dis­miss the Pa­cific Ocean as a wa­ter source.

While there are some ex­am­ples of de­sali­na­tion plants that have been moth­balled af­ter the end of a drought, we can­not pre­dict when our drought will end. It may end this win­ter, or it may end 30 years from now. Tree ring ev­i­dence from the Four Cor­ners re­gion in­di­cates that a drought oc­curred there from about 1275 to 1300. Nearly 40 mil­lion peo­ple likely can­not en­dure a 25-year drought, es­pe­cially with the pop­u­la­tion ex­pected to in­crease dramatically over that pe­riod.

Cal­i­for­nia’s politi­cians, as usual, are a day late and a dollar short in ad­dress­ing the drought. We need more de­sali­na­tion plants as a hedge against drought.

Jim Ru­eff Foun­tain Val­ley

I dis­agree with Hiltzik that the fi­nan­cial cost of de­sali­na­tion is too high. De­sali­nated wa­ter ap­pears to be fi­nan­cially ex­pen­sive only when com­pared to the cost of wa­ter from tra­di­tional sources.

Hiltzik notes that the San Diego County Wa­ter Author­ity has agreed to buy Po­sei­don’s de­sali­nated wa­ter for $2,100 to $2,300 per acre-foot, plus in­fla­tion. Con­vert that to cost per gal­lon (an acre foot is 325,851 gal­lons) and you get less than a penny per gal­lon. There also is the cost of trans­port­ing the wa­ter to the cus­tomer, so the to­tal cost of de­sali­nat­ing wa­ter and pip­ing it to my home might be as high as 2 cents per gal­lon.

My wa­ter bill has tiered pric­ing, and the amount I cur­rently pay for the last gal­lon I use is 1.17 cents. I do not at all mind pay­ing 2 cents per gal­lon for wa­ter. I’d rather pay this than be forced to cut back on us­age while pay­ing 1.17 cents.

John Fer­gu­son La Jolla

Hiltzik’s fine col­umn on de­sali­na­tion for Cal­i­for­nia raises valid con­cerns about ex­or­bi­tant costs, both fi­nan­cial and eco­log­i­cal, in re­gard to both con­struc­tion and op­er­a­tion.

His col­umn prompts me to ask how de­sali­na­tion has been so suc­cess­ful for Is­rael, which has turned a desert into a gar­den. I would like to know how it has han­dled the con­cerns of cost and en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact.

Ron Gar­ber Duarte

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