Desalination and the SNWA Water Grab

It should be clear by now that the SNWA water grab is a vampire project. Just when you think it is dead, it comes back again. As long as Las Vegas and southern Nevada are focused on increased growth and unsustainable development, they will need more water. The expansionist urge of the developers has no limits.

Some opponents of the water grab have long advocated for desalination. In this plan, large industrial water “desal” plants would be built in southern California. These would purify seawater, making it usable for crops and drinking water. This would allow the region to stop using Colorado River Water, leaving more for Las Vegas, other southwestern cities, and industry throughout the interior.

We have advocated against this plan for years, for multiple reasons. One of these reasons–unanticipated consequences–seems to be coming true. A new report shows that desalinization plants worldwide create more toxic, highly concentrated saline sludge (141 million cubic meters per day) than they do fresh water (100 million cubic meters per day).

The report shows that desal plants create more than 50 billion cubic meters of brine slide per year — “enough to cover the state of Florida, or England and Wales combined in a 30-centimetre (one-foot) layer of salty slime”. This sludge is “made even more toxic by the chemicals used in the desalination process, researchers reported in the journal Science of the Total Environment. Copper and chlorine, for example, are both commonly used.”

This sludge is dumped directly back into the ocean, raising temperatures and creating oxygen-depleted dead zones.

The bottom line: Technology will not save us from the problems created by industrial civilization. Technologies may mitigate certain problems, but in the process create new problems—as we see here. We must be radicals; in other words, we must address the fundamental root cause of these problems, rather than dancing around the “politically feasible” reforms that will only prolong and expand future suffering and mass extinction.

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