“The Carlsbad Desalination Project will provide San Diego county with a locally-controlled, drought-proof supply of high-quality water that meets or exceeds all state and federal drinking water standards.”
The quote above comes directly from carlsbaddesal.com,the website for Carlsbad’s new desalinating water plant. The process of desalination includes removing salt and unhealthy minerals from saline water. When discussing the current drought in California, there is often talk of desalination and its potential to increase our freshwater supply. Removing salt and minerals from saline water seems like an obvious solution to the drought and ongoing water scarcity concerns because it is a reliable water source.
Fourteen new desalination plants have been in the works to produce more drinkable water along the California coast. For many, this may seem like an answer to the “exceptional drought”. As consumers, it may also seem like a way to help us avoid making lifestyle changes, such as Governor Jerry Brown’s call for Californians to reduce their water use by 20 percent. But while desalination may be a reliable option, the answer is much more complicated.
One of the greatest issues with desalination is the cost associated with these projects. A new plant may cost upwards of hundreds of millions of dollars to build (a billion in the case of the Carlsbad facility), plus considerable cost to run the plant.
Beyond the costs to build these facilities, operational costs are substantial and raise concerns over the energy requirements and their impacts. Energy costs make up around a third of total operating costs for a typical desalination plant. In California, there is concern about vulnerability to short-term and long-term energy price increases. During a drought, energy prices tend to increase due to the reduced ability to generate hydropower and the need to replace that hydropower with more expensive energy sources. These costs are often overlooked and not always factored into the total project cost. Long term, energy prices are not static and may increase due to the rising costs of developing renewable alternatives and building and maintaining new and existing infrastructure.
With these high capital and operational costs also comes a higher cost of its product, water. Desalinated water can cost upwards of $1,900 per acre foot, considerably more than other alternatives such as water conservation and efficiency, stormwater capture, and recycled water.
Aside from the costs, there are other potential externalities associated with desalination facilities, including environmental impacts. Seawater intake systems that draw ocean water in through screened pipes impinge marine organisms on the intakes. Smaller organisms able to pass through, such as eggs, larvae, and plankton, are entrained into the plant and killed during the desalination process. Produced water disposal can also have a substantial threat to marine life. The salt is concentrated into a brine that is usually pumped back out to sea for disposal after going through the desalination process. These point sources increase salinity levels and may affect local sea life, depending on the plant’s location and sea currents.
The idea of building seawater desalination plants during a drought is not a new one. In 1991, a desalination plant in Santa Barbara was constructed in response to the 1987-1992 drought. Once the plant was completed, abundant rainfall rendered the plant cost-inefficient, and it shut down in 1992. Currently, costs to restart the plant are being assessed as the technology and infrastructure are dated and would incur new capital investment. Likewise, six seawater desalination plants were built in Australia in response to the Millennium Drought. Today, four out of the six plants are left idle due to the availability of cheaper alternatives. These examples should serve as cautionary tales.
The good news is that we still have cost-effective options readily available. A study by the Pacific Institute and NRDC shows how California’s drought can be managed with better allocation and management of water resources. By implementing water-saving practices, water reuse, and stormwater capture, California can save 5.2 to 7.1 million acre-feet of water each year in our urban areas – equivalent to the output of 125 large desalination plants!
Sustainable water management is best served by creating a comprehensive water management strategy in California, one that captures the most cost-effective options first. California has the ability to bridge the gap between water demand and supply by taking advantage of the existing resources and practices that have yet to be fully and efficiently harnessed.
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National Geographic recently posted a wise article on ways to replace your lawn with water-saving plants and other alternatives so that you don’t use as much water during this extreme Californian drought. Here is the list that they created to help you and your family save water in your home… ”
- Astroturf– Made famous on sports fields, synthetic grass, or astroturf, is becoming an increasingly popular choice for homeowners, from California to Virginia. A lot of research has gone into the material in recent years, to make it softer underfoot and to reduce the temperature it achieves under intense sun.
- Groundcover– Instead of grass, a wide range of ground covers can be used to keep out weeds and reduce erosion, which would otherwise be a problem if people suddenly ripped out their grass. Alternatives include rocks and mulch, some of which can be locally sourced. Crushed shells are popular for properties near a beach. Sand also is an option, particularly for those going for a Zen garden look.
- Native plants– Many traditional nurseries offer plants that are native to a local area. Native plants are adapted to the local climate and require little or no watering to thrive, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. [They] also can provide habitat for local birds, mammals, and insects. They typically earn points for green certification systems like LEED or can help homeowners achieve a “wildlife friendly” designation from their state or a nonprofit.
- Drought-tolerant grasses & shrubs– In addition to native plants, homeowners also can choose from a wide range of drought-tolerant grasses and shrubs from around the world. Examples include lavender, sage, kangaroo paw, and tea tree.
- Desert plants– People can exchange grass for such water-sippers as succulents and cactus. These plants are often widely available at nurseries, and they can be kept in pots and moved indoors during colder months in cooler climates. They can be used in large numbers or as accents. “
To learn how to save water in your house as well as in your yard, visit Filtercon Technologies‘ website or call us at 800-550-1995.
5 Water-Saving Ways to Replace Lawns During California’s Drought. National Geographic. May 21, 2015. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/05/150521-turf-terminators-xeriscape-california-drought-tolerant-lawns-water-savings/
Posted in drought, environment, health, save water, sustainability
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What’s the best way to make your houseplants grow strong and vibrant? Watering them. But often times, it’s easy to overlook what kind of water you’re feeding your plants. Tap water may cost less, but filtered water has many more advantages. Some tap water has harmful chemicals that can hurt you and your plants. Let’s take a look at the different types of water and their effects on houseplants…
Chlorine is often found in tap water and is used to kill diseases. Chlorine is a gas that evaporates out of water. That’s why you can smell chlorine. This has a terrible effect on houseplants and their growth. However, letting chlorine water sit and “breathe” for 24 hours before pouring it into your houseplants helps. Your water container also needs to be clean sot that the water going into your plants is pure.
There are some people whose tap water is what is called “hard water.” This simply means that the water has excessive amounts of minerals like magnesium or calcium. If this is your water, make sure not to use it on your houseplants.
Salt prevents the plants’ roots from absorbing water. This mineral forms around the plants’ cells, pulling water out of the plant as it starts settling in the soil. Although salt is found in tap water, the content is too low to be problematic.
Unlike salt water, sugar causes bacteria to grow in the right environment. If you use this type of water, your houseplants will become unhealthy and die over time. It can also be a great place for fungus to grow, causing the same harmful effect on your plants.
Well water nourishes houseplants. Since it comes from deep below ground, and it carries nutrients from the soil that plants need. It acts almost like a fertilizer, leading to greener and healthier plants. However, most people in urban areas are not privileged to this type of water.
This can get a little pricey. Not only that, but you never know where the water comes from or what types of contaminants are in its container.
The best and most economical source for water is buying a whole house water filtration system. It provides chlorine free water that tastes great. Additionally, it removes heavy metals and pollutants that will give life back to your houseplants. You and your plants will benefit immensely from it.
Other notes: many times houseplants are killed due to over-watering. Before watering your plants, stick your finger in the soil about an inch down. If the soil is dry, water away. If the soil is still moist, there’s no need to water. Equally important factors to growing plants are sunlight and proper exposure.
For more information on whole house water filtration, visit http://www.filtercon.com or call us at 800-550-1995.
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The California drought has taught us many things. 1) We need to use less water in our homes 2) More natural disasters occur when our land is too dry 3) Less rainfall is good for our oceans? Yes, this is true. Rainfall has actually polluted the waters along the San Diego coast in the past due to the large amount of toxins that the water picks up along the way. So, less rainfall=less polluted waters.
According to the environmental group Heal The Bay, which assesses water quality for Southern California beaches and assigns them grades, 96% of the area’s 72 beaches are pretty healthy. That means that out of an A-F grade, they received either an A or a B. Their health ratings have increased 2% in the past 5 years, partially due to a program that plants water cleansing plants in creeks to filter water going to the ocean.
The areas that were rated among the cleanest in San Diego County included San Elijo State Beach and Cardiff State Beach in Encinitas, Ocean Beach Pier, Point Loma Lighthouse and Silver Strand in Coronado.
However, the areas that proved to have the worst water quality were Cottonwood Creek Outlet at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, Seascape Surf Beach Park in Solana Beach, San Diego River Dog Beach in Ocean Beach, the pier and Cortez Avenue at Imperial Beach, the mouth of the Tijuana River, and beaches at Border Field State Park.
Sarah Sikich, who is vice president of Heal the Bay, says, “In a time of severe drought, it’s madness to send billions of gallons of runoff to pollute the sea when we could be capturing and cleansing that water for daily use. The rains will return, and when they do we need to capture this valuable resource to maximize our local water supplies and keep polluted water out of our ocean.”
We need to do so much more to help our environment and prevent runoff from polluting our oceans. To check out more about how you can help, visit healthebay.org. Also check out Filtercon Technologies for our water filtering products to make sure that you aren’t drinking dirty city water (www.filtercon.com).
Moonlight: Swami’s Beaches Score Low on Water Health. Encinitas Patch. June 18th, 2015. http://patch.com/california/encinitas/moonlight-swamis-beaches-score-low-water-health-0
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Truckee Meadows Water Authority is asking residents to reduce their outdoor water use by 10 percent. What are some things you can do in your yard to accomplish this?
• Check your irrigation system regularly for breaks, split hoses or missing emitters all through the growing season. Make sure the emitters are still directed towards the intended plants. Make sure your sprinkler heads still are functioning properly and are aimed at your lawn, not the sidewalk or other paved surfaces.
• Check your hoses and hose couplings. Use washers at both ends of the hose to eliminate leaks. Use a spray nozzle at the hose end that provides a shut off. Do not let the hose run continuously while you are washing your car or hand-watering your plants.
• Don’t hose down paved or hard surfaces in your yard. If you must hose down hard surfaces, direct the wash water to your lawn or other plantings.
• If you don’t already have a drip irrigation system for your trees, shrubs, flower beds or vegetables, consider installing one. These systems can be automated with a timer to ensure adequate watering occurs and help prevent over watering.
• Direct your gutter downspouts to the landscaped portions of your yard, not a paved surface. Use what little rainwater we may get to water the plants in your landscape.
• Avoid watering your yard in the heat of the day, between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. and during windy conditions. Water your yard early in the morning or later in the evening. Water your lawn less often but deeply to encourage deep root growth. Sometimes, evening lawn watering can promote diseases that prefer high humidity. If you’ve had problems in the past, limit your lawn watering to early morning.
• Mow your lawn at the highest setting on your mower, ideally 3 inches or higher. Mowing high encourages deep root growth, which will help your grass tolerate heat and drought. Deep roots will enable your lawn to take up water from deeper in the soil. Mowing high also helps shade out weeds and reduces water losses from evaporation.
• Some people allow their lawns to go dormant in the heat. Lawns can survive on very little water, but when they go dormant, they turn straw colored or light brown. Some neighbors, homeowners associations and other entities don’t like to see brown lawns. But if it comes to making hard choices in your landscape, the trees and shrubs you have growing are a bigger investment than the lawn, so concentrate on watering them.
• Mulch can help reduce water losses from the soil and also reduce weeds. Apply mulch 2 inches to 4 inches thick around plants. Be careful not to pile up mulch around the stems of plants or trunks of trees and shrubs, as this can promote some insect pests and plant diseases.
• If you are designing a new landscape in your yard, this is not our first drought year and it won’t be our last. Your best bet is to design with drought in mind. Limit the turf areas. Group plants by their water needs and consider low-water use plants. Water deeply and less frequently. Install an automated irrigation system. Inspect and maintain your irrigation system regularly.
Author: Melody Hefner is the Urban IPM and Pesticide Safety program assistant for the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Have a gardening question? Ask a Master Gardener at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Picture Credit to UNCE