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Why can't we build a desalination facility off the coast of California near drought-ridden cities? | Why Guy

California is weighing the pros and cons of going all-in as a means to deal with drought.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Today's Why Guy question comes from Todd, who asks, "Why can't we build just one solar/hydro-powered desalination plant off the coast of California nearest the most drought-ridden city/cities?"

Todd, as we sit squarely in the middle of another drought, adding more seawater desalination facilities has become a louder discussion. Right now, California has 12 desalination facilities in operation, but there are calls for more. 

There are three in the Northern California area near Monterey and San Francisco. As for proposed desalination facilities, there are 15 in all, including seven in Northern California.

Construction is underway in nearby Antioch on a brackish water desalination facility that's the first of its kind in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. These plants, which experts say weren't viable or aren't as needed as they were 20 years ago, are being looked at now in a more critical light in the struggle to adapt to less rainfall and climate change.

While desalination does produce fresh water, it also generates brine, a highly concentrated saltwater mixture that is then pumped back into the ocean. That high amount of salt does have a negative impact on marine organisms. 

At least 170 countries have invested heavily in desalination, and California is weighing the pros and cons of going all-in as a means to deal with drought.



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