Monterey Bay desalination project is approved despite environmental injustice concerns.
A new desalination plant is being proposed in California’s Salinas Valley, despite opposition from local residents, an international advocacy group, and California’s own state auditor. These concerns include a lack of transparency in the proposal’s governance, impacts on water quality, and a negative impact on salmon as well as several marine species.
Desalination is used to make water drinkable, in contrast to the use of water for other purposes (such as agricultural irrigation and industrial use). Water has been used for desalination for more than 100 years, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Since the 1950s, desalination has increased dramatically. In the United States alone, the desalination industry now accounts for up to 6 percent of all industrial water withdrawals in the country. Desalination is the principal mechanism by which water is used in the United States for human consumption (about 38 trillion liters per year) and the production of industrial products (about 21 trillion liters per year).
Desalination is an energy intensive process involving energy inputs that are not easily recycled. For example, in 2000, an estimated 45% of global electricity generation was based on desalination.
A new desalination plant in Salinas, California is being proposed at the time of this article’s publication. The project would cost $4.3 billion and employ about 3,000 people, according to the City of Salinas. The Salinas project would be built on 16.5 acres of the Salinas River Water Authority’s (SRWA) former desalination plant site. The plant is designed to be a hybrid in which most of the facility is a conventional pipeline, but it will also include a treatment plant that will produce drinking water for the city, potentially serving as its largest drinking water source, and an associated wastewater treatment facility.
The environmental justice and human rights organizations Rising Tide, Earthjustice, the Institute for Policy Studies, and the Center for Biological Diversity have all criticized the project’s proposal. The National Audubon Society has also taken positions against the project.
The environmental justice groups argue that the proposed plants will exacerbate the ongoing environmental injustice of California’s poor communities. They have also argued that the project’s proposed use of water will negatively impact the quality of water flowing into the Sal