Especially for California, and it comes from US News & World Report.
If we would invest in this technlogy and more in nuclear energy California would actually be the forward leading place it now mistakenly claims to be.
The Trump administration is hoping to reinvigorate a technology long dismissed as too expensive or energy-intensive to help solve a water crisis that has seen drought grip swaths of the American West, sparking deadly wildfires and legal battles over supply.
The Energy Department last month declared that it’s spending $100 million over the next five years to create a research and development hub on desalination, a process that converts seawater and brackish inland water into freshwater.
Announced roughly five years after Congress appropriated the funds under the Obama administration, the planned hub comes as once-periodic water shortages have become perennial, if not ever-present, in American communities, forcing policymakers to rethink how residents get freshwater – and reconsider technologies they’d once shelved.
The investment is widely seen in the research field as a moonshot effort, the best attempt yet to jump-start the kind of advancements that would make the elusive process energy-efficient and cost-effective and make a resource out of vast unusable deposits like the saltwater that covers two-thirds of the earth’s surface.
“The significance can’t be understated. Something like this has been a long time coming,” says Jonathan Brant, associate professor of environmental engineering at the University of Wyoming.
“We’re faced with a real water crisis, and the main solution to that is going to be able to tap – in an environmentally sustainable and economically sustainable way – saline water sources.”
Desalination is costly and enormously energy intensive: Israel and Australia – two of the driest nations on Earth – are by far the world leaders in desalination, largely by necessity. While Israel draws more than half of its water from desalination plants – and more than 85 percent of its municipal water overall is reused – desalination plants in the U.S. provide less than 0.002 percent of the water consumed in the country each year.
That doesn’t mean there are no desalination plants in the U.S.: One study from 2016 pegged the tally at over 1,330 plants. The largest, in Carlsbad, California, supplies 50 million gallons a day to some 110,000 residents in San Diego County. The process, in fact, was pioneered in the U.S.: The Bureau of Reclamation funded an office on saline research as early as the 1950s.
In the past half-century, however, while there have been some innovations, the techniques for separating salt and other molecules from H2O haven’t greatly changed.
One method largely involves simply heating water until it evaporates, leaving behind the salt and other deposits that made it undrinkable. The other process – the one most in use today – is known as membrane separation, which involves pressing huge amounts of brackish water against a net filled with microscopic holes, each small enough to allow H2O molecules to pass through while filtering everything else.
Both methods are expensive: Salt forms strong bonds with water, and the molecules are not easily separated. While freshwater has traditionally cost about 50 cents per cubic meter in an average U.S. market – and sometimes as little as 10 cents per cubic meter – desalinated water costs as much as $2 per cubic meter, and sometimes even more.
Such costs can be spread out: In parts of California and Texas, for example, desalination plants provide a fraction of the local water supply – only a quarter or a third of the water may come from a treatment plant and the rest from traditional, cheaper sources. The plants also demand huge amounts of energy: In Texas, for example, less than 3 percent of the state’s water through 2022 will come from desalination, according to a state report, but its treatment will account for 9 percent of the water sector’s electricity demand.
“For the last 15-20 years we’ve been up against this thermodynamic barrier,” Brant says. “What we need is a paradigm shift from traditional methods to alternative technologies.”
Already the Energy Department announcement has sparked phone calls and flurries of emails between scientific silos that wouldn’t otherwise cross paths: biologists talking with materials scientists talking with engineers. The hope is that such cooperation – greased by the infusion of government cash – could yield the kind of critical breakthrough that would change how the U.S. and perhaps the world gets its water.
“They have created this movement among scientists and engineers nationwide to get to know each other and build alliances to apply for the grant, and that means that all these people who are working on their piece of the puzzle are getting to know each other,” says Brent Haddad, a professor of environmental studies at the University of California – Santa Cruz who specializes in urban water management and who plans to apply for funding from the hub. “That’s a benefit to this project already, and they haven’t funded a dollar.”
Retrieved January 7, 2019 from https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2019-01-04/a-moonshot-for-solving-americas-water-crisis