Could desal solve our problems after all?

Every month or so someone sends me his or her “solution” to California’s water problems.

Those quotation marks aren’t meant to sound snide. These folks are all a heck of a lot smarter than I am. Or at least, more determined. You’d have to be, to spend your spare time trying to figure this mess out.

The latest proposal comes from Tualatin, Ore.-based Bella Machines, which wants to build a massive subterranean desalination plant near Los Angeles that would run on hydraulic power.

If I understand the plan correctly, water would flow from mountain reservoirs into a conduit connecting to the underground desal plant. Meanwhile, a separate conduit will deliver ocean water (sea critters would be filtered out somehow).

The fresh water coming down the first conduit would power a high-pressure pump that would force the ocean water through a membrane to remove the salt.

In other words, unlike an “ordinary” desal plant that requires tremendous amounts of electricity, this one would run on the tremendous force of ¬†falling water.

The authors contend this would be better than the current system by reducing the amount of power needed to convey Northern California water to Southern California. “Every gallon of water that is generated in LA is one less gallon that must be pumped out of the Central Valley,” they write.

It would also reduce demands on the Delta. by generating up to 1.12 million acre feet per year of “new” water according to the authors. The proponents estimate the system would cost $31 billion.

They argue the plan is a viable alternative to the twin tunnels because it would involve less land disruption and require less mitigation. Eighty percent of construction would take place in the Mojave Deserve, and the rest would be underground, as compared with the Delta and it’s vast farms, utilities and highways.

No big, ugly desal plants spoiling the scenic Southern California coastline.

“The LA Desalination Project needs to be on the table and warrants the serious consideration of the California voters and decisionmakers,” the group writes.

Read the whole proposal here.

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