Fight the drought with desalination

August 23, 2016
Jordan Cunningham

Jordan Cunningham


Despite last winter’s modest rainfall, California remains mired in its fifth year of drought. Sixty percent of the state has been categorized by the State Water Resources Control Board as being in “severe” or “extreme” drought. Hardest hit is the Central Coast and Central Valley, much of which is in the worst category of “exceptional” drought.

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors declared a local drought emergency in March. Many of our communities have adopted mandatory water restrictions of up to 20 percent, and most residents have stepped up to limit their water use. These steps are good and necessary.

But given our climate, there always will be the potential for drought. For the good of our residents and local agricultural economy, we must actively pursue new water sources to expand our water supply locally.

Fortunately, we have the technology and opportunity to solve many of our water supply problems through expansion of desalination technology for a stable and drought proof water supply.

It is ironic that we live next to the largest body of water on Earth, but we find ourselves like the Ancient Mariner who complained, “Water, water, everywhere/ Nor any drop to drink.”

Desalination technology has evolved to where we are now able to remove the salt and other contaminants from ocean water in an environmentally-sensitive, cost-effective manner. One such desalination facility has been in operation for years at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant, mainly serving the plant’s operational needs.

In March the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors authorized $900,000 to research providing Diablo’s desalinated water to South County residents. A study concluded that the project “could be both technically and economically feasible.”

The county found that the one-time cost of the pipeline upgrades might be as low as $21.7 million and the cost of the desalinated water as low as $1,800 an acre-foot. That would make it economically competitive with other sources such as groundwater, recycled wastewater and purchasing state water.

Unfortunately, PG&E’s decision to close the plant by 2025 resulted in the company backing out of the desalination expansion plan. But we shouldn’t let this opportunity pass. Our leaders must step up and find a way to make this happen for communities like Avila Beach, Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach, Grover Beach and Oceano.

We need to entice a private company to buy the desal facility from PG&E once the power plant closes, expand the desalination facility and enter into long-term water supply contracts with our cities and counties. This can be done over the next eight years with the right leadership and hard work.

There is no doubt that the Central Coast needs new and creative solutions to meet our water needs for our homes and crops. We need strong, effective leadership to make it happen. One of the reasons I’m running for state Assembly is to work proactively on long term solutions to our problems. Using desal technology to address our present and future water shortages is a top priority.

Thanks to technology and our proximity to the Pacific Ocean, we have the capability to solve our problems. It just takes political will and creative leadership.

Jordan Cunningham, a businessman and former prosecutor who lives in Templeton, is a candidate to represent the 35th Assembly District, which includes San Luis Obispo County and western Santa Barbara County.

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Step 1: Stop the government and private companies from modifying the weather all the time, and see if rain returns to pre-geoengineering levels.

no, more water means more crowded. we’re fine as is. this desal thing is just a scam for those who profit from development.

Desal is still expensive and energy-hungry. SLO County needs to build a few more dams. This should have begun long ago. We not only have rainfall issues in CA, we also have water storage issues…

Another alternative for this idea is the former Duke power plant in Morro Bay. It has the intake and outflow already in place. Morro Bay already has a desalination plant and perhaps the expansion of it, and the sale of water to other communities, might be the answer for the desperate need for tax money to fund basic services in the city.

I agree with our need for a desalination plant.

The “canyon” dump enough fresh water back into the ocean to fill Lopez Lake in three days. Now, if we want desalination plant it going have to burn fossil fuel. The “canyon” been running for 40 years. Where did it cause a problem?.

You know in 1970 California’s population was 19 million today it is 38 million. The earth was 3 billion. Today, it is almost 8 billion. They all need food and water.

As for the first comment, all I can say: It takes a lot of things to prove you are smart, but only one thing to prove you are ignorant. (Don Herold). So buddy, your ugly narcissistic philosophy is FYIGM.

You’re wrong. Diablo’s desal plant cannot generate enough fresh water to fill Lopez in three days. It desal capacity is 1.5 million gallons of water per day. Lopez Lake can hold 49,388 acre-feet or 16,093,150,276.68 gallons give or take. It would take Diablo’s desal plant (at current rates) almost 30 years to fill an empty Lopez to the brim.

You’re confusing fresh water with sea (salt) water. Diablo circulates about 2.5 billion gallons of seawater per day. Therefore every week (not 3 days) or so, Diablo circulates enough sea water to fill an empty Lopez to the brim.

We don`t need more water, just restructure. Agreed about vineyards with their deeper straws sucking up all the available water. Also motels…When was the last time you went to a motel charging excessive prices and read their “help us safe water…” sign?

I’m very water conscious at home, but at a motel I read this sign to say help us make a bigger profit at your expense of not having a nice shower. Maybe that’s a rationalization, but I have to believe other motel occupants think the same way…

Tourists not only bring their money to our county, they also bring their attitudes. Jamming parking lots. Trying to run you off the highway because they’re late for their next splurge. Changing our way of life because it doesn’t conform to their big city life.

There are many areas I don’t go to on weekends in my town because I don’t want the negative energy of big city folks not slowing down to enjoy our beautiful towns and appreciatiating the gifts our county has to offer.

Tourists bring their MONEY with them and leave some of it behind. Tourism is the third biggest area of our economy. We want them, we NEED them. Many people’s job depend on tourists coming to visit.

In short, if you weren’t born here of a family who was here for 50 years, get out, don’t come to visit, or to live. I don’t want your attitude? Maybe you should be mayor of a new San Luis monarchy and you could do “extreme vetting” of anyone who wants to visit or move here – don’t forget to include a fourty year driving record in the document that should be submitted.