Readers React

Don't dismiss desalination as a drought remedy

To the editor: Michael Hiltzik's criticism of building more desalination plants in California is counterproductive to addressing the drought. With 38 million people and a large agricultural industry, California can ill afford to dismiss the Pacific Ocean as a water source. ("Desalination plants aren't a good solution for California drought," April 24)

While there are some examples of desalination plants that have been mothballed after the end of a drought, we cannot predict when our drought will end. It may end this winter, or it may end 30 years from now. Tree ring evidence from the Four Corners region indicates that a drought occurred there from about 1275 to 1300. Nearly 40 million people likely cannot endure a 25-year drought, especially with the population expected to increase dramatically over that period.

California's politicians, as usual, are a day late and a dollar short in addressing the drought. We need more desalination plants as a hedge against drought.

Jim Rueff, Fountain Valley


To the editor: I disagree with Hiltzik that the financial cost of desalination is too high. Desalinated water appears to be financially expensive only when compared to the cost of water from traditional sources.

Hiltzik notes that the San Diego County Water Authority has agreed to buy Poseidon's desalinated water for $2,100 to $2,300 per acre-foot, plus inflation. Convert that to cost per gallon (an acre foot is 325,851 gallons) and you get less than a penny per gallon. There also is the cost of transporting the water to the customer, so the total cost of desalinating water and piping it to my home might be as high as 2 cents per gallon.

My water bill has tiered pricing, and the amount I currently pay for the last gallon I use is 1.17 cents. I do not at all mind paying 2 cents per gallon for water. I'd rather pay this than be forced to cut back on usage while paying 1.17 cents.

John Ferguson, La Jolla


To the editor: Hiltzik's fine column on desalination for California raises valid concerns about exorbitant costs, both financial and ecological, in regard to both construction and operation.

His column prompts me to ask how desalination has been so successful for Israel, which has turned a desert into a garden. I would like to know how it has handled the concerns of cost and environmental impact.

Ron Garber, Duarte

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