Water Efficiency, Not Desalination, for Water Supply

Could water from an under-regulated desalination plant in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula provide an alternative water source to portions of Southern California? That is exactly what might happen as water agencies supplying San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tucson look for new ways to provide water to compensate for the loss of 20% of flow in the Colorado River due to climate change (DOI report PDF).

The ‘Voice of San Diego’ explains the draw to looking south of the border to solve our water woes: “Desalination offers the promise of being a drought-proof local supply in an arid region that imports most of its water from hundreds of miles away. But it is highly regulated in California because of its environmental impacts, such as massive pumps that suck in and kill fish larvae and other marine life.”

This alone makes desalination harmful enough to an already degraded ecosystem, without even mentioning the polluting concentrated salty brine byproduct, high energy consumption, and costly transport needs associated with the new water supply. Exporting our water demand to Mexico is a desperate solution, and one which avoids looking at water efficiency reform that could happen at home, cost-effectively, and safely.

American Rivers is working to identify how water use efficiency and effective transport from source to demand can enable us to protect our personal water supply and river ecosystems. For more information about smart water efficiency policies that could revolutionize the way we look at supply check out our in-depth report Why Water Efficiency is the Best Solution for the Southeast.