Home > Property & Casualty > Improving a tested method to combat the California drought

Improving a tested method to combat the California drought

According to the California Department of Water Resources, the state is in the midst of its fourth year of drought.  As a result, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed a $1 billion emergency drought package in March to accelerate emergency food aid, conservation awareness, infrastructure and flood protection funding, drinking water, species tracking, water system modeling, and water recycling.  The Governor also ordered the first mandatory statewide reductions on April 1 due to the lowest snowpack ever recorded, and no end in sight to the drought.  These courses of action were taken in addition to Governor Brown declaring a Drought State of Emergency on January 17, 2014, as well as a Proclamation of a Continued State if Emergency a few months later on April 25, 2014.

Researchers from Humboldt State University and the University of Southern California are working to develop a potential solution to California’s water shortage through desalination.  They are also looking to address two downsides of the process: high costs and a byproduct called salty brine that can damage marine life once reintroduced into the ocean. The team’s answer to these concerns is a new process called Reverse Osmosis-Pressure Retarded Osmosis (RO-PRO) via a portable, prototype RO-PRO system.

The system being developed is different from traditional desalination plants that use reverse osmosis because it uses both reverse osmosis and its opposing process, pressure-retarded osmosis. As a result, the system limits environmental harm by diluting highly concentrated saltwater back to seawater, and uses 30 percent less energy than ordinary desalination methods.

Once the system is completed, it will be housed and tested at the Samoa Pump Mill, where water from the Mad River meets the Pacific Ocean. During that time, researchers will test the system and its efficiency to determine whether it’s suitable for wider use. After that, they plan to incorporate the technology into existing desalination facilities around the state. “Eventually, we’d like to see the technology built into new desalination plants in California and elsewhere,” Achilli says.

Israel, a nation whose geography is approximately three-fifths desert, relies on desalination and acquires about a third of its drinking water from the sea. IDE Technologies is building the largest seawater desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere north of San Diego, which will be able to provide 50 million gallons of clean water per day when completed in 2016. IDE also constructed the Sorek desalination plant in Israel. Udi Tirosh, the director of business development stated, “As an Israeli child, you’re raised with a culture of saving water.” Israel has successfully reduced water consumption by raising prices, educating the public to reduce waste, and cutting back on grassy areas, which is approximately 90 cubic meters per year per person, as opposed to 170 in California. With the Golden State in the midst of a mega-drought that has plagued the region for over one hundred years, its citizens may have to adopt such a culture in addition to new desalination technology.

WGA’s Renewable Energy and Clean Technology team has extensive experience in the area of water technology. Contact any member of the team to find out how they can assist in implementing risk management and insurance solutions for clients in the energy and clean technology areas.


About the Author

Matthew Rist_jpgMatthew Rist is an Assistant Vice President and a member of WGA’s Renewable Energy and Clean Technology team. He provides risk management and insurance solutions to clients in the energy and clean technology areas, working closely with them to help design, negotiate and implement comprehensive insurance programs. 

617.646.0347 | MRist@wgains.com | Connect with Matt on Linkedin

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