With the recent rains early January, it seems that the great drought is over, at least temporarily. For almost 5 years we had less than average rain every single year, putting an enormous pressure on people and utility companies as well. Is it climate change, or just like in the Bible, that many meager years will be followed by many fat years? I don’t know. (I think it was seven fat years followed by seven meager years, but you get the point.) None the less, with the growing population and the pressure to produce even more food for California and the Nation as well, it is an imminent problem to produce more water and produce it in a more predictable way. I think everybody agrees with me that we should set priorities on how we spend or allocate state collected tax money to accommodate this.

Of course, I’m no expert in this field, but consider this: Northern California doesn’t have any significant water shortage, it is mainly Southern California suffering from water shortage. Actually we have plenty of water in the Pacific Ocean but unfortunately it is pretty salty. Other countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia have very similar problems but they have a solution — de-salinate the ocean water. I know it is more expensive then harvesting fresh water from rivers and fresh water lakes, but if there is no water in the reservoirs then what do you do?
Let’s just play with the numbers for a second.

Consider this: the newly built Carlsbad Desalination Plant provides approx. 7-10% of the entire San Diego county water supply needed. How many people live and work in San Diego County? About 3.5 million people. 10% of 3.5 million people is 350,000 people. California’s entire population is about 35 million people. 350,000 is 1% of 35 million. So about 100 similar de-salination plants would be needed for the entire state of California if we use only de-salinated water. Approx. 70% of Californians live in Southern California. That would reduce the numbers to 70 plants. Of course we still have the available reservoirs, rivers, aquifers, the traditional sources for fresh water in our state. Here comes a little guessing game. In a severe drought condition how much of these traditional sources will still be providing water? 50%? 40%? 30%? I don’t know, but let’s use a worst case scenario and say only 30% of the needed water will be available by the traditional way. That would reduce the needed de-salinating plants to about 50.

The cost of the Carlsbad plant was about 1 billion dollars (one billion with a B). That is a lot of money. 50 of those of course would be 50 billion. Let me repeat it: it is a lot of money. In comparison, the entire state budget for the fiscal year of 2016-2017 is a little more over 150 billion dollars. But if only 2 of these plants would be built in a year, the state water shortage problem would be solved in about 25 years for good. Probably you noticed that I didn’t mentioned any concerns of the environmental activists, like tiny fish will get caught at the intake on the ocean floor and concentrated salt will be put back into the already salty ocean. Really?

One more statistic. The proposed California bullet train is budgeted to cost about 67 billion dollars but skeptics predict it will cost close to 100 billion dollars at the end. I’m all for public transportation but if the question is to choose between survival or just another way to get to San Francisco, my choice is very simple. Or we may need that bullet train when we down south want a drink of water.

What do you think?

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