Originally published May 2 2015
Desalinization is not the solution to the water crisis and would only cause more problems, Food & Water Watch reports
by Jonathan Benson, staff writer
(NaturalNews) "Water, water everywhere, and all the boards did shrink; water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink." This famous quote from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner speaks of the plenitude of ocean water. It makes up more than 70 percent of the earth's surface, but it is completely undrinkable due to its high salt content.
Throughout time, science has endeavored to come up with ways to remove this salt and make ocean water drinkable. Today that technology exists in the form of desalinization. However, an extensive new report from Food & Water Watch (FWW) entitled Desalination: An Ocean of Problems explains why desalinization won't work and why it causes more problems than solutions.
With the current water crisis in California, it makes sense that policymakers and water authorities are actively looking for viable solutions that will provide more drinkable water to growing populations without breaking the bank. However, the proposed construction of desalinization plants up and down the West Coast, for example, poses serious problems in terms of expense, pollution, and the continued privatization of natural resources.
Conservation and more efficient water use should be a first priority The fact remains that many water utilities could be doing more right now to conserve existing water supplies, such as fixing leaky pipes, upgrading failing infrastructure and converting public landscaping to less water-intense varieties. The FWW report estimates that California could save a full third of its current water use by doing this, and the cost would be 85 percent lower than the cost of using new sources of water.
"[O]ur nation's water systems lose 6 billion gallons of water per day due to problems such as leaking pipes," explains the report. "Utilities cannot account for this water because many do not have the resources to implement comprehensive leak monitoring programs. Meanwhile, all of the desalinization plants in the United States today operating at their full capacity could only produce a quarter of this unaccounted for water."
Desalinization is cost prohibitive for what it actually produces In this same vein, desalinization is extremely expensive, costing up to three times more than what it costs to produce water from traditional supplies. Even with government subsidies, the costs associated with the saltwater collection process and the electricity required to process it into drinkable water make it cost prohibitive by definition.
"Although the price tag varies by region, and the true price is often hidden by corporate underestimates and government subsidies, it is consistently more expensive than traditional options and much more costly than conservation and redistribution programs -- two to almost four times as costly," highlights the report.
The last thing Americans need is more corporate control over natural resources like water Water is a natural resource that should only be centrally managed and distributed by honest governments that are serving the interests of the people. With desalinization, the process is opened up for private exploit by major corporations much in the same way that Enron tried to privatize and control energy distribution.
Research conducted by FWW in four separate states where private companies currently sell water found that these companies charge up to 50 percent more than their publicly-owned counterparts. In Florida, one desalinization plant was completely non-functional until a public utility took it over and made things right in the public, rather than private, interest.
"The push for ocean desalinization is led by private corporations that plan to sell desalted ocean water to the public at a premium," maintains FWW. "This private ownership allows the people who control our vital resources to put their bottom line before the public interest."
Desalinization plants kill marine life and harm fishing industries Like nuclear power facilities located along the oceanfront, desalinization plants produce a tremendous amount of waste water - often at very high temperatures - that kills nearby marine life. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that desalinization plant intake structures kill an astounding 3.4 billion fish and other marine organisms each year.
"This amounts to a $212.5 million loss to anglers and commercial fisherman," warns FWW. "California power plant intake structures alone are responsible for the loss of at least 312.9 million organisms each year, resulting in a $13.6 million loss to fishermen."
Desalinized water isn't necessarily safe for humans to drink Another factor often not considered is the quality of the final product after water is desalinized. According to FWW, desalinization actually concentrates the levels of water contaminants like boron, algal toxins such as red tide, and a host of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or EDCs. This is especially problematic in areas along the coast, where sewage and storm water runoff are present in high amounts close to the shore.
"Desalted water ... puts the drinking water supply at risk because both seawater and brackish water can contain chemicals that freshwater does not," explains the report. "These contaminants include chemicals such as endocrine disruptors, pharmaceuticals, personal care products and toxins from marine algae."
Desalinization: the wrong choice at a ghastly price Desalinization is essentially the same thing as reverse osmosis, except on a much larger scale. It's expensive, highly polluting, and it doesn't really fix the problem. All the while, it takes advantage of consumers by charging them much more for freshwater than they would otherwise pay while enriching the coffers of private interests at the expense of the public good.
Author John Archer said it right when he wrote: "Desalinization of the sea is not the answer to our water problems. It is a survival technology, a life support system, an admission of the extent of our failure."
Food & Water Watch is encouraging citizens to contact their local, state, and federal policymakers to urge opposition to any further desalinization efforts. With the right conservation and reuse measures in place, there is no need to construct these behemoth structures along our coastlines, which stand to cause irreparable damage to our remaining clean water resources and public drinking water systems.
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