An Expensive Way to Ease California's Drought: Desalinization Plants

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:53 AM GMT on April 07, 2014

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With the middle of April approaching, there is no significant precipitation in the forecast for California in the coming ten days, and there is a good chance that the California rainy season is at least 95% over. As wunderground's weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, documents in his April 3 California Drought Update, the California rainy season lasts from October to mid-April, and typically only 10 - 15% of the rainy season precipitation falls after April 1. While enough precipitation fell over the past two months to prevent the current rainy season from hitting record low precipitation levels, the 2013 - 2014 rainy season was the third consecutive poor rainy season, leaving California in a dire drought situation. The winter of 2013 - 2014 had the most severe winter drought conditions since record keeping began in 1895, and California faces a long, dry summer with a Sierra snowpack that is only 33% of normal. The April 3, 2014 Drought Monitor is showing that 99.8% of California is in drought, with 95% of the state in Severe, Extreme, or Exceptional drought.


Figure 1. Predicted precipitation for the 7-day period ending at 8pm EDT Sunday, April 13, 2014. No significant rain is expected to fall in California in the coming week. Image credit: NOAA/HPC.

Ways to Ease California's Drought
There is only one major river in the Southwest, the Colorado River, and in most years the flow in the river is far less than the amount of water allocated to stockholders drawing water from the great river. Over 30 million people depend on the Colorado River for their water, including much of Southern California, and the river irrigates farmland that produces 15% of the nation's food. Two major studies, one by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in 2012, and one by the non-profit Pacific Institute in 2013, laid out five major ways that the Colorado River basin can get more water. As I outlined in Part 1 and 2 of this series last month, two ways to get more water for the thirsty Southwest are through conservation measures and cloud seeding. A much more expensive way--typically costing 2 to 20 times more than conservation techniques--is to make fresh water out of salt water using a desalinization plant.


Figure 2. Arizona's Yuma Desalting Plant, used to treat saline agricultural runoff and create fresh water. Image credit: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Desalinization Plants
Fresh water can be wrung out of the ocean by forcing it through filtration membranes used in the reverse osmosis process. The high pressures needed consume a lot of energy--even more energy than it takes to pump water from Northern California rivers to Los Angeles over a 2000'-high mountain obstacle. Desalinized water provides less than 1% of California's fresh water, and costs nearly double what water imported from Northern California rivers and the Colorado River costs. However, given that desalinized water is "drought-proof", there are efforts to greatly expand the creation of fresh water from the sea. The $734 million Carlsbad Desalination Project in San Diego County, California, scheduled to be completed in 2016, will generate about 56,000 acre-feet annually, at a projected cost of $2135 per acre-foot. This largest desalinization plant in the U.S. is projected to meet 7 percent of San Diego County’s demand in 2020, and will push up the typical home's water bill by $5 to $7 a month, according to the San Diego Water Authority. A sister plant has been proposed near Los Angeles. California currently has six operational desalinization plants, with three others that are partially or fully idled due to their high cost of operation. remains unused and has been partially dismantled, because the city found cheaper sources of water.

I’ll discuss several other ways California can get more water in future blogs posts in the coming weeks.

Jeff Masters

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994. Wolfberry
6:08 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
Quoting 987. KoritheMan:


Wind/rain, and a very delicate love/hate relationship.


but you know what life is
Member Since: April 1, 2014 Posts: 0 Comments: 205
993. Jedkins01
1:14 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7302
992. sar2401
1:02 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
Quoting Tornado6042008X:

When I say ten years ago, the ago is in the past (negative). 

So I said negative ten years ago today. A negative and a negative make.....

OK, this is one of those riddles. So a negative and a negative make zero...no, that's not right...let's see, a -10 + -10 = -20...that's it...what happened 20 years ago today. Did I get it?
Member Since: October 2, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 13333
991. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
12:56 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
JeffMasters has created a new entry.
990. beell
12:55 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
Quoting 979. sar2401:

Your first line if going to fold up before it gets over to me. We'll see what the second line does. So much for the 20% chance of scattered showers" thing. I guess they forgot about the hail part. :-)


You need some new weather guys, sar!
The first Day 1 Outlook for Monday and today.


DAY 1 CONVECTIVE OUTLOOK
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
1259 AM CDT MON APR 07 2014

...KS/OK/TX...
A WEAK SURFACE WIND SHIFT AND A N-S ORIENTED MIDLEVEL THERMAL TROUGH WILL MOVE FROM W-E ACROSS KS...OK AND TX TODAY. SURFACE HEATING BENEATH COLD 500 MB TEMPERATURES /RANGING FROM -22 TO -26 C/ WILL RESULT IN STEEPENING LAPSE RATES THROUGH THE AFTERNOON. RELATIVELY WEAK DEEP LAYER SHEAR WILL TEND TO LIMIT STORM ORGANIZATION...THOUGH EFFECTIVE BULK SHEAR OF 30-35 KT IS POSSIBLE ACROSS TX. WEAK INSTABILITY /MLCAPE OF 300-700 J PER KG/ SHOULD GENERALLY LIMIT THE NEED TO INTRODUCE HIGHER SEVERE PROBABILITIES AT THIS TIME...BUT A FEW STRONGER CORES COULD PRODUCE MARGINALLY SEVERE HAIL AND/OR STRONGER WIND GUSTS.

DAY 1 CONVECTIVE OUTLOOK
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
1155 PM CDT MON APR 07 2014

...LOWER MS VALLEY...
A SIMILAR CONVECTIVE THREAT /LOW-TOPPED TSTMS/ THAT OCCURRED ACROSS OK INTO CENTRAL TX ON MONDAY IS EXPECTED ACROSS THE LOWER MS VALLEY INTO THIS AFTERNOON. COLD 500 MB TEMPERATURES /-24 TO -26 C/ WITHIN THE SRN EXTENT OF THE FULL LATITUDE TROUGH WILL SHIFT EWD ACROSS AR/LA INTO WRN TN AND MS. THE COLD MIDLEVEL TEMPERATURES ATOP SURFACE HEATING WILL RESULT IN STEEPENING LAPSE RATES SUPPORTING LOW-TOPPED CONVECTIVE DEVELOPMENT INVOF AN EWD MOVING WIND SHIFT. WEAK INSTABILITY AND WEAK DEEP LAYER SHEAR WILL LIMIT THE POTENTIAL FOR STORM ORGANIZATION AND A GREATER SEVERE WEATHER THREAT...THOUGH LOCALLY STRONG WIND GUSTS WILL BE POSSIBLE ALONG WITH MARGINALLY SEVERE HAIL.
Member Since: September 11, 2007 Posts: 141 Comments: 16258
989. Astrometeor
12:55 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
Quoting 985. KoritheMan:


My pessimism is not dependent on context, Nathan. It's uniform. Get with the program, young lad.


No, I meant pessimism as in another person entirely. In rare cases a double negative can lead to a you.
Member Since: July 2, 2012 Posts: 98 Comments: 9888
988. sar2401
12:54 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
Quoting StormTrackerScott:
I think its funny how TWC bashed Direct TV on air and all Direct TV wanted was more weather. Funny how the real truth comes out after the fact.

In another press release today, it was announced that Barney Fife (no relation), manager of the TWC "If You Don't Get The Weather Channel You Could Die" public outreach campaign, is being flown to Australia for a special, behind the scenes look at the hunt for MH370. After a few shots of the sky, Barney will be loaded into a Chinese rubber boat and motor out to the approximate site of the pings, and be dressed in a special Jim Cantore (tm) All Weather Parka/Dive Suit, have a long rope tied around his waist, and be pushed overboard, in an attempt to be the first TWC staffer to actually see the black boxes. The Cantore (tm) outfit has a special underwater camera that will broadcast live video until the battery runs out. TWC has announced this documentary will probably only be shown one time, so be looking for this exciting special, called "Dope on a Rope", on TWC very shortly after your next Local on the 8's.
Member Since: October 2, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 13333
987. KoritheMan
12:49 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
Quoting 986. nwobilderburg:


nice. I wonder what a hurricane is like. I havent even been in a strong thunderstorm.


Wind/rain, and a very delicate love/hate relationship.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 558 Comments: 19994
986. nwobilderburg
12:48 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
Quoting 983. KoritheMan:


I have a friend that's going to chase this storm. He's native to Australia anyways.

I told him to get pictures/video. Hopefully he listens.


nice. I wonder what a hurricane is like. I havent even been in a strong thunderstorm.
Member Since: October 6, 2013 Posts: 0 Comments: 723
985. KoritheMan
12:48 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
Quoting 984. Astrometeor:


A negative and a negative make a pessimist. Or a Kori, depending on context.

:-)


My pessimism is not dependent on context, Nathan. It's uniform. Get with the program, young lad.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 558 Comments: 19994
984. Astrometeor
12:46 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
Quoting 982. Tornado6042008X:

When I say ten years ago, the ago is in the past (negative). 

So I said negative ten years ago today. A negative and a negative make.....


A negative and a negative make a pessimist. Or a Kori, depending on context.

:-)
Member Since: July 2, 2012 Posts: 98 Comments: 9888
983. KoritheMan
12:43 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
Quoting 978. nwobilderburg:


interesting path


I have a friend that's going to chase this storm. He's native to Australia anyways.

I told him to get pictures/video. Hopefully he listens.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 558 Comments: 19994
982. Tornado6042008X
12:40 AM GMT on April 09, 2014

Quoting 981. sar2401:

Isn't 10 years ago today always negative (in terms of time), or is this one of those riddles I never get?
When I say ten years ago, the ago is in the past (negative). 

So I said negative ten years ago today. A negative and a negative make.....
Member Since: March 29, 2013 Posts: 0 Comments: 286
981. sar2401
12:34 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
Quoting Tornado6042008X:
Alright I see that no one knows what happened negative ten years ago today.

Well it looks like I'm just going to have to tell you about it. 

Isn't 10 years ago today always negative (in terms of time), or is this one of those riddles I never get?
Member Since: October 2, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 13333
980. sar2401
12:32 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
Quoting MahFL:


That is not coach class, so don't get your hopes up, at best you might get seats that are 1/2 inch wider than a 777, but the airlines, not Airbus, are going to pack you in like sardines, that is where the profit is.

Like the article said, nine abreast with 18" wide seats in the cattle car section. I hope the whole world goes on a diet before I get stuffed into one of those things. I'm waiting for the "steerage" class seats in the baggage hold next.
Member Since: October 2, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 13333
979. sar2401
12:30 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
Quoting oceanspringsMS:
Link

Another storm line with hail a little bigger than what we got an hour ago.

Your first line if going to fold up before it gets over to me. We'll see what the second line does. So much for the 20% chance of scattered showers" thing. I guess they forgot about the hail part. :-)
Member Since: October 2, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 13333
978. nwobilderburg
12:29 AM GMT on April 09, 2014


interesting path
Member Since: October 6, 2013 Posts: 0 Comments: 723
977. MahFL
12:27 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
Quoting 903. GTstormChaserCaleb:
Wow the future of travel got even more elegant and luxurious...


That is not coach class, so don't get your hopes up, at best you might get seats that are 1/2 inch wider than a 777, but the airlines, not Airbus, are going to pack you in like sardines, that is where the profit is.
Member Since: June 9, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 3338
976. Tornado6042008X
12:26 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
Alright I see that no one knows what happened negative ten years ago today.

Well it looks like I'm just going to have to tell you about it. 
Member Since: March 29, 2013 Posts: 0 Comments: 286
975. Dakster
12:21 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
TimSoCal - That could be some HOT HOT water... Super El Nio if that happens...
Member Since: March 10, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 10034
974. KoritheMan
12:16 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
Quoting 969. TimSoCal:
*gulp*


The consensus compared to just a few weeks ago is astounding.


I think it's time to seppuku.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 558 Comments: 19994
973. Dakster
12:15 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
Quoting 954. sar2401:

Holy cow! I had forgotten all about that disaster. Then Coke fought back with "Tab Clear". It was quite a tussle in the soft drink market before both company's executives realized consumers hated them and they tasted awful. Then they were gone. Who says the free market doesn't work? :-)


Remember Pepsi Free?

New Coke?

Funny thing, in one of the Back to the Future Movies, Michael J. Fox (Marty) goes back to 1950 and asks the Diner Bar tender for a Pepsi Free. NONE of my kids or their friends get that joke. And he replies, you can have a pepsi, but it isn't free.

Yeah - that colonoscopy procedure is really crappy, from beginning to end.
Member Since: March 10, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 10034
972. KoritheMan
12:15 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
And once again... today's storms go right over my head... Literally.



All that dry mid-level air looked promising for promoting damaging wind gusts, too. Oh well.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 558 Comments: 19994
971. StormTrackerScott
12:13 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
Quoting 969. TimSoCal:
*gulp*



That has 'Super El-Nino" written all over it.
Member Since: February 28, 2013 Posts: 4 Comments: 2336
970. oceanspringsMS
12:09 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
Quoting 962. StormTrackerScott:
I think its funny how TWC bashed Direct TV on air and all Direct TV wanted was more weather. Funny how the real truth comes out after the fact.


I can't remember the last time I turned on the TV to get "real-time" weather. Haven't watched the local weather forecast on TV in years. Only time I watch TWC is if there is a major event on the coast. I think TWC is trying to combat that lost of viewership with weather "documentaries", etc. I am 57 so it isn't like I'm just use to getting my news by internet. Still enjoy reading the paper on the throne every morning. :)
Member Since: September 10, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 142
969. TimSoCal
12:08 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
*gulp*


The consensus compared to just a few weeks ago is astounding.
Member Since: July 9, 2013 Posts: 0 Comments: 609
968. StormTrackerScott
12:06 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
Little cooldown then comes the heat and storms again.

Member Since: February 28, 2013 Posts: 4 Comments: 2336
967. Tornado6042008X
12:04 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
Quoting 940. sar2401:

Let me guess...The Indians won the World Series...no, that can't be it...wait, the Browns won the Super Bowl...no, that's not right either. I'm stumped.
It happened negative 10 years ago today.
Member Since: March 29, 2013 Posts: 0 Comments: 286
966. oceanspringsMS
12:01 AM GMT on April 09, 2014
Link

Another storm line with hail a little bigger than what we got an hour ago.
Member Since: September 10, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 142
965. GeoffreyWPB
11:56 PM GMT on April 08, 2014
Nice week coming up for West Palm Beach...

Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11002
964. pcola57
11:56 PM GMT on April 08, 2014
Quoting 963. jpsb:
do the math it is not nonsense!


Sigh..
Try saying that to yourself when you visit "The Other Blog"
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6773
963. jpsb
11:49 PM GMT on April 08, 2014
Quoting 800. bappit:

This is such nonsense. LOL

At summer solstice the north pole receives about as much solar radiation as does the equator during a 24 hour period. That's why the dang sea ice melts in summer. There is a lot of energy coming in when the sun shines 24 hours a day! Of course, there is a lot more sea ice melting now than before. Positive feedback: the open water is absorbing more energy and melting the ice even faster.

do the math it is not nonsense!
Member Since: June 30, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1190
962. StormTrackerScott
11:45 PM GMT on April 08, 2014
I think its funny how TWC bashed Direct TV on air and all Direct TV wanted was more weather. Funny how the real truth comes out after the fact.
Member Since: February 28, 2013 Posts: 4 Comments: 2336
961. ncstorm
11:42 PM GMT on April 08, 2014
what ever happened to water?
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 14602
960. StormTrackerScott
11:42 PM GMT on April 08, 2014
Boy it looked as if we were going to have a bust rain event here in Orlando and right at the last second thunderstorms with very heavy rain formed in lake County and rolled into the Orlando area not once but twice. Picked up a solid 1" of rain at my place which is a lot for one day in April as this is our driest time of year before the wet season kicks in late May.

Roughly 13" of rain at my location so far this year. Highest since 1998 going into mid April.
Member Since: February 28, 2013 Posts: 4 Comments: 2336
959. GeoffreyWPB
11:41 PM GMT on April 08, 2014
Quoting 958. georgevandenberghe:


THe old Fresca, sweetened with cyclamates was really good. Cyclamates were found to be cancer causing and Fresca was taken off the market. It revived about a year later but I didn't like the new product.

I'm getting too old if I remember this stuff.

I used to like Pepsi also. Then I turned 12.


RC Cola was my sugar of choice.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11002
958. georgevandenberghe
11:40 PM GMT on April 08, 2014
Quoting 932. sar2401:

Do they actually still make Fresca? I thought it gave you cancer or something.


THe old Fresca, sweetened with cyclamates was really good. Cyclamates were found to be cancer causing and Fresca was taken off the market. It revived about a year later but I didn't like the new product.

I'm getting too old if I remember this stuff.

I used to like Pepsi also. Then I turned 12.
Member Since: February 1, 2012 Posts: 17 Comments: 1630
957. sar2401
11:39 PM GMT on April 08, 2014
Quoting Astrometeor:


Middle TN has three tornado outbreak anniversaries this week. 1974, 2006, 2009. Whew.

Well then, that pretty much puts the kibosh on the deal for that middle Tennessee flimsy modular home I was looking at.
Member Since: October 2, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 13333
956. sar2401
11:36 PM GMT on April 08, 2014
Quoting Dakster:


The results of drinking that stuff are worse, for sure..

Needed a seatbelt on the toilet.

Now you've really got Geoff upset.

I've often thought the entire procedure was developed by Hitler's doctor's because they were mad that they were going to have to commit suicide and wanted to get back at the world. :-)
Member Since: October 2, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 13333
955. PedleyCA
11:32 PM GMT on April 08, 2014
Quoting 939. sar2401:

I don't know. I think that stuff they make me drink before a colonoscopy is even worse. :-)


Yes, that is true, thoroughly nasty stuff....
Member Since: February 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 5690
954. sar2401
11:32 PM GMT on April 08, 2014
Quoting Naga5000:



Don't forget Crystal Pepsi...

Holy cow! I had forgotten all about that disaster. Then Coke fought back with "Tab Clear". It was quite a tussle in the soft drink market before both company's executives realized consumers hated them and they tasted awful. Then they were gone. Who says the free market doesn't work? :-)
Member Since: October 2, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 13333
953. Astrometeor
11:31 PM GMT on April 08, 2014
Quoting 871. Bluestorm5:
A 3 years anniversary of tornado outbreak in North Carolina is coming up and I've begun writing a long blog post about the event as well as "I Was There" story of what I did on that day and how much it really mean to me for rest of my life. Hopefully y'all will like it once I'm done :)


Middle TN has three tornado outbreak anniversaries this week. 1974, 2006, 2009. Whew.
Member Since: July 2, 2012 Posts: 98 Comments: 9888
952. Dakster
11:29 PM GMT on April 08, 2014
Quoting 939. sar2401:

I don't know. I think that stuff they make me drink before a colonoscopy is even worse. :-)


The results of drinking that stuff are worse, for sure..

Needed a seatbelt on the toilet.
Member Since: March 10, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 10034
951. sar2401
11:27 PM GMT on April 08, 2014
Quoting Haiyan2013:
The 'M' storm on the Atlantic list is Marco and the 'P' storm on the E. PAC. list is Polo this year=-O

If the Atlantic season goes as being prognosticated by some, Marco will never make before Polo goes sailing past. :-)
Member Since: October 2, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 13333
950. sar2401
11:25 PM GMT on April 08, 2014
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


Thanks for that dinnertime post. :(

Speaking of nausea, thank goodness I didn't mention Fresca too...oh, shoot...OK, never mind. :-)
Member Since: October 2, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 13333
949. Haiyan2013
11:21 PM GMT on April 08, 2014
The 'M' storm on the Atlantic list is Marco and the 'P' storm on the E. PAC. list is Polo this year=-O
Member Since: January 8, 2014 Posts: 0 Comments: 343
948. PalmBeachWeather
11:20 PM GMT on April 08, 2014
Quoting 945. VAbeachhurricanes:


why..... would you ever do that
As my 5 year old granddaughter would say "Just because"
Member Since: October 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 5822
947. Naga5000
11:19 PM GMT on April 08, 2014
Quoting 946. PalmBeachWeather:
"TAB" sucked pretty much also...



Don't forget Crystal Pepsi...
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 3296
946. PalmBeachWeather
11:18 PM GMT on April 08, 2014
Quoting 936. luvtogolf:
The worst drink ever made.
"TAB" sucked pretty much also...
Member Since: October 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 5822
945. VAbeachhurricanes
11:11 PM GMT on April 08, 2014
Quoting 944. PalmBeachWeather:
Dak....Messes with my meds also...It's ok anyway... Always hated grapefruit...Makes it worse when you take a shot of milk..


why..... would you ever do that
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6145
944. PalmBeachWeather
11:08 PM GMT on April 08, 2014
Quoting 928. Dakster:


I can no longer drink Fresca even if I liked it. It contains grapefruit juice which conflicts with my meds. Grapefruit juice actually conflicts with a lot of meds.
Dak....Messes with my meds also...It's ok anyway... Always hated grapefruit...Makes it worse when you take a shot of milk..
Member Since: October 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 5822

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.