WATER SUPPLY/Water district gets desalination research funds
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is developing a way to drastically reduce the cost of water desalination and has received approval for $4 million in funding from the U.S./Israel Science Foundation, Washington, D.C., to speed the process. Recently enacted federal legislation may also help fund the effort.
The district is a regional water agency that imports water from northern California and the Colorado River and delivers it on a wholesale basis to the coastal plain of southern California. Through its 27 member public agencies, the MWD provides roughly 60 percent of the water used by nearly 16 million people living in portions of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties.
The new desalination method achieves cost savings through a refined distillation process as well as use of less expensive aluminum and other non-corrosive construction materials. Testing is ongoing at the district’s 2,000-gpd seawater distillation plant at Huntington Beach, Calif. Currently, desalting seawater costs between $2,000 and $6,000 per acre-foot (approximately 326,000 gallons) because of high construction costs and the large amount of energy necessary to distill the water.
Results from the test plant, in conjunction with economies in plant construction materials, show that the new multi-effect distillation process can cut costs to around $800 per acre-foot.
Currently, the district is cooperating with a joint venture comprised of the Parsons Corporation, Pasadena, Calif., and I.D.E. Technologies, Raanana, Israel, toward the design of a non-site-specific demonstration plant and the international marketing of the new technology.
The water district may benefit from legislation signed into law last year by President Clinton that authorizes spending $55 million over the next five years for desalination research and development.
Former Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), a chief advocate of desalination, sponsored the legislation. Simon visited the Huntington Beach plant in early 1996, according to district General Manager John Wodraska.
All funding authorized by the Simon legislation would be under the control of the Secretary of the Interior, who must consult with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies on the granting of any research-and-development monies.
A spokesman for MWD says no money had been appropriated for the legislation as of mid-January.