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Environmentally Friendly Delta Diversions

When it comes to cost-effective ways to increase the supply of water to California’s cities and farms, every idea should be considered. The residential, commercial and industrial water requirements of California’s 40 million people add up to about 8 million acre feet of water per year. The nine million acres of irrigated farmland that produces the food they eat, requires another 30 million acre feet of water per year.

With droughts and increasing priority given to letting water stay in the rivers to maintain ecosystem health, this water supply is threatened. Water scarcity and water rationing, along with fallowing millions of acres of farmland, is the only answer California’s legislature seems to support. Efforts to increase the water supply have been incremental at best.

From a cost perspective, most supply solutions are financially viable, but nonetheless quite expensive. For example, only about one-third of California’s urban wastewater is recycled. Construction costs to upgrade every water treatment plant in the state that isn’t already turning sewage back into recycled water for landscaping or even for potable reuse would cost about $20 billion, and give back up to 2 million acre feet per year.

Desalination is another option, but is roughly twice as expensive as wastewater recycling. For an estimated construction cost of $20 billion, about one million acre feet of ocean water per year could be desalinated. While it is the most expensive option, desalination has the virtue of being a perennial supply of new water, impervious to drought. What other […] Read More