Desalination a solution for our water woes? Uh, not so fast…

As we creep inexorably toward the one-year mark without meaningful rainfall (how mind-boggling is that, anyway?), ideas that were once bandied about in sci-fi mode now start to take on some semblance of credibility. Like, for example, the idea that we have plenty of water available to Texas, it’s just a bit on the salty side. So, let’s build some big honkin’ desalination plants like Saudi Arabia has and we can solve a bunch of our water shortage issues.

Unfortunately, the reality is depressingly ironic. As this Reuters article points out, the Saudis are starting to worry more about peak water than peak oil, and the cost of desalination is starting to make a significant dent in their oil-derived riches.

It’s an understatement to say that the Saudis are ginning out a lot of desalinated water. The quoted figure of 3.36 million cubic meters per day equates to almost 900 million gallons per day, enough to supply the equivalent of five cities the size of Midland with their entire water usage. The problem is the expense of producing that water. Using today’s currency exchange rate, it’s costing almost $2.4 million per day to make the water, and that doesn’t include the cost of transporting it.

Of course, the Saudis are hit with a “double dip,” as they’re using oil and gas that they would otherwise have been selling to us to produce the water. The article estimates that about half the cost of desalination is energy-related.

Desalination is still something that needs to be considered as a way of mitigating the effects of our extreme drought, but it’s not only a long-term solution, but also an expensive one. On the other hand, all the cheap alternatives are gone.

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  1. If we can build expansive pipelines to move oil, why not water?
    Let’s tap into the Missouri River that’s always overflowing all over the mid-Western & Plains regions and bring some of that liquid gold down here to drought-stricken Texas! Solves 2 problems at the same time.
    And if that big honkin’ pipe develops a leak… well, it’s just water!!

  2. I’m in complete agreement. Unfortunately, West Texas doesn’t have the political clout to pull this off. You’d have to do some big-time eminent domaining to get the rights-of-way for a ditch that big and long, and it would be nigh to impossible for a lightly populated area like ours to make an effective “public good” argument.

  3. And if that big honkin’ pipe develops a leak… well, it’s just water!!
    Rob I assure you with the current climate in Washington, it could be manna from heaven falling to earth, the EPA would have something to say about it.

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