Conservation may help, but we’ll need to produce more water to conquer the drought

By William Hicks

New ideas for water production can keep taps from running dry

New ideas for water production can keep taps from running dry

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Most of us are familiar with that famous line from “Jaws.” It came to mind the other day as I walked along the marina and thought about our water crisis and our plan to address it.

We’re gonna need a bigger plan.

The drought is indeed like a massive, dangerous shark that lurks just below conscious awareness and is not at all concerned about whether we have enough water to live.

As taxpayers are being asked to cut back on water, the county is partnering with developers to increase the number of rental units in the marina.

The L.A. County Dept. of Public Works, which serves unincorporated areas of the county such as Marina del Rey and Malibu-Topanga, plans to meet state water conservation goals by calculating average water use for each area and increasing prices for users who exceed the norm. Overages up to 15% would cost double, and over that triple the normal rate, department Deputy Director Gary Hildebrand recently told NBC 4’s Patrick Healy.

It’s just not a big enough plan.

Back in the 1930s, we lined the L.A. River with concrete because it would flood. At the same time, this also put a lot of people to work during the Great Depression. But the last time I checked, this isn’t the ‘30s (though the economy has been about the same), when there weren’t 10 million thirsty Angelenos.

As my sister-in-law put it, “They should break open the bottom of the L.A. River so that the water can absorb into the ground instead of running off into the ocean.”

I would take this plan a step further and propose that we divert the water before it reaches the ocean. We should be able to run a pipe to DWP facilities that can filter and distribute that water. There are currently plans to put in a new sewage pipe to replace the old one that runs under Marina del Rey, so why not add a new water pipe while the ground is open?

Another thought is to build an L.A. desalination plant.

Poseidon Water has plans to open one of the largest desalination plants in the country next year in Carlsbad.

“Obviously we’ve done tons in conservation, but we have to have enough water,” Sandy Kerl, deputy general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority, which is buying the water from the Carlsbad desalination plant, told The Desert Sun. “You can’t conserve what you don’t have.”

Environmentalists say that intake pipes can be built beneath the ocean floor, using the sand as a natural filter to keep out marine life, and brine can be mixed with less-salty water from a wastewater treatment plant before returning it to the ocean.

As far as the cost, L.A. is one of the wealthiest cities in the world, so surely it can afford to spend part of that on water. After all, water is non-negotiable.

As far as the energy required, we live in a very sunny place with some of the greatest minds in the world. If we don’t have the wherewithal to capture enough energy from the biggest power source in the solar system, something is drastically wrong.

There are already close to 15,000 desalination plants worldwide. In this day and age, I think it is irresponsible for any large city along a coastline not to build one.

There are other technologies that can produce more water to meet our growing needs, such as graywater recycling and rain-capturing systems. I have to commend L.A. city officials for requiring new construction projects to include rain gutters and rain barrels.

We shouldn’t have to rely on water that the farmers up north need to grow our country’s produce. California produces a majority of American fruits, veggies and nuts: 99% of artichokes and walnuts, 97% of kiwis and plums, 95% of celery and garlic, 89% of cauliflower, 71% of spinach and 69% of carrots, according to a Slate article.

We and our leaders must work together to better manage our resources. Water, clean air, food and shelter are all non-negotiable needs.

As the saying goes, “There is enough food to end world hunger but not enough money to pay for it.”

Except that there is enough currency, but just like our water supply, it needs to be managed and circulated effectively and efficiently.

Contact the author at williamhicks.columnist@gmail.com.

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