Forget desalination

First fix the pipes.

So says the Verdict.

California’s Coastal Commission has declined to grant Poseidon Water a permit to develop a $1.4 billion desalination plant southeast of Los Angeles.

The reason for rejecting the plant was that it would be highly polluting and cause severe damage to nearby ecosystems.  Desalination is a very energy intensive process.

But if the water crisis in California that has been created by extended drought is to be solved and water supply cannot be added in this way, then the only solution is to focus on leakage from the distribution network.

The Verdict’s article references the UK as an example of a regulated market which has set aggressive leakage reduction targets.  This in turn has driven innovation in the supplier market to provide solutions that will cost-effectively deliver the desired leakage reduction.  The article Is quite narrow in its focus, mentioning only leak reduction and then only citing satellite leak detection.

California may also want to consider:

  1. Pressure/flow and acoustic loggers with monitoring software to identify, diagnose, localise, and repair leaks more quickly
  2. Manage pressures down to minimum viable levels to reduce leakage and bursts
  3. Manage valve turns to ensure that they do not create transients that in turn create leaks
  4. Minimise water lost to flushing by automating and optimising the flushing process
  5. Understanding better the condition of pipes and directing capital spend more accurately to those at risk of bursts and leaks

The Verdict article concludes: “This water crisis will only get worse. If we try to desalinate our way out of this mess with the technology we currently have, we will further destabilize the global food chain that supports all terrestrial life.  Until these technical issues are addressed, fixing our leaky pipes is a better idea.”