black bird perched on bare tree

The West is historically dry. Desalination could help. | Popular Science

A historic drought calls for new ideas.

By Thor Benson, Published Apr 3, 2022 5:00 PM

As climate change continues to plague the planet, droughts are likely to become worse in the future. Unsplash

California and the rest of the American West are facing the worst drought in over 1,200 years.

This drought is devastating the agricultural industry and creating conditions that lead to massive wildfires. According to the IPCC, climate change makes it likely that droughts will only continue to get worse.

To maintain an adequate supply of fresh water, the region needs to develop technological solutions to dwindling water levels.

Fortunately, a decent chunk of California is on the coast, meaning one solution to the drought is utilizing desalination technologies to turn seawater into fresh water. However, large desalination plants take years to become operational and are expensive to operate (nearly $3,000 per acre-foot of seawater).

Additionally, many places experiencing drought in the West, such as Arizona and New Mexico, are not on the coast. But desalination isn’t just an option for freshening up seawater, says Brent Haddad, a professor of environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“[Desalination] can improve not just brackish groundwater but also agricultural groundwater that’s been harmed by chemicals and even some industrial wastes,” Haddad says.

Source: The West is historically dry. Desalination could help. | Popular Science