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Steven Knoblock

By Councilmember Steve Knoblock

Our government was created to establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. 

One of the essential elements of our general welfare is the safe and secure delivery of water to our homes. I’m not talking about the 352 quintillion gallons of salty ocean water off our shore, but the approximately eight million gallons of fresh water we, the people of San Clemente, use every day.

As we all know, our fresh water is currently imported from melting snowpacks hundreds of miles away.

Our current system of delivering water is more than 110 years old, and the method and technology are just as archaic.

First, we build a damn on a river, like the Plume River in Northern California, which flows into Lake Oroville 530 miles from San Clemente, or the Colorado River that’s only 230 miles away.  Then we dig hundreds of miles of canals with scores of massive pumping stations to push the water over the various mountain ranges between here and there.

This antiquated water delivery system, similar to the old Roman aqueducts, costs Californians a staggering $2 billion every year to maintain, and San Clemente pays its share.

Reliable water is the lifeblood of every healthy and prosperous community. Unfortunately, our water system exists in a state of perpetual risk from recurring droughts and earthquake faults traversing the canals and conduits. 

San Clemente is at the very end of this delivery system. A major interruption event to this old and fragile water supply chain would affect us long before our neighbors, and to a greater degree. Experts predict that a major disaster to the system could cut off water supply for six months to a year. 

It is like the proverbial sword of Damocles hanging over us. Thank God, no major interruptions have befallen us in the hundred-year life of our aging water delivery system.  But time is not on our side.

Water canals have served us well, just like the horse and buggy, Detroit V8 gas-guzzlers or 8-track cassettes. I believe it is time to bring our water delivery system into the 21st century.  If we have the will and the foresight, we can put in place an unlimited supply of fresh water.

Oceangoing cruise ships and cargo vessels are routinely producing tens of thousands of gallons of fresh drinking water every day. A growing number of municipalities are also producing fresh drinking water from the ocean in a much larger scale. 

For more than 20 years, Santa Barbara has operated a desalinization plant, which produces more than two million gallons per day of fresh drinking water for its residents. Our neighbor to the south, Carlsbad, recently completed a desalinization facility that produces 40 million gallons of fresh drinking water per day, freeing its citizens from relying on imported water and the threat of droughts.

Our next-door neighbor, the South Coast Water District (SCWD), has successfully operated a desalinization pilot project and completed the financial and environmental analysis in preparation for the construction of a multimillion-gallon-per-day fresh water facility on its existing property next to the San Juan Creek.

They are looking to partner with a neighboring city or water district to share the cost and the benefits of unlimited fresh water. San Clemente is the logical choice to partner with SCWD.

Let’s do our due diligence and partner with SCWD to assure unlimited fresh water for our kids, grandkids and great-grandkids.

Steven Knoblock was elected to a two-year term on the San Clemente City Council in 2020.

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comments (2)

  • I’m glad to see comments back ! Storage at elevation can supply electricity and or pressure’s to desalinate salty waters ,

  • I would think Heal the Bay know more about water than a city council member who wants to make money on water. https://healthebay.org/sites/default/files/Desalination%20FAQ%20Sheet_final.pdf

    What is Desalination?
    Desalination is the process of removing salts and other minerals from otherwise
    undrinkable water to produce freshwater for human consumption and other uses.
    To produce this fresh water, desalination facilities withdraw enormous amounts of
    brackish or seawater through large pipes along (“surface”) or beneath the seafloor
    (“subsurface”).
    What happens to the remaining water and salt that is removed?
    Extracted salts, minerals, and a percentage
    of source water mix to form a hyper saline
    slurry commonly referred to as brine. Brine
    has a much higher salt concentration
    compared to salt water, which creates
    disposal challenges.
    Brine waste is commonly disposed of in the
    ocean. To reduce environmental impacts
    during disposal, brine can be mixed with
    other water sources to reduce salinity and/or
    discharged through diffusers. Diffusers
    stimulate brine mixing with ocean water and are used to disperse brine at several
    different discharge points from desalination facilities.
    What are the environmental impacts of desalination?
    Most forms of desalination are energy-intensive. Desalination has the potential to
    increase fossil fuel dependence, increase greenhouse gas emissions, and exacerbate
    climate change if renewable energy sources are not used for freshwater production.
    Desalination surface water intakes are a huge threat to marine life. Mature fish, larvae,
    and other marine life can be significantly injured or killed when they become trapped or
    sucked into open water surface intake pipes.
    The State Water Resources Control Board estimates that open ocean intakes used by
    coastal power plants in California kill 70 billion fish larvae and other marine life on an
    annual basis. These same open ocean intakes are being proposed for use at
    desalination plants throughout California.
    Brine waste also poses a potential threat to marine life and water quality, as it contains
    dangerously high concentration of salts and other minerals. Because of its high density
    and salinity, brine waste can accumulate in and around disposal areas smothering
    bottom dwelling species and significantly altering coastal ecosystems.
    Why isn’t desalination the solution to our water problems?
    Desalination’s energy-intensive process is expensive and environmentally harmful,
    making it a costly strategy to bolster regional water supplies. The average price per
    Ocean-Water Desalination:
    A Solution or a Problem?
    Desalination plant in Lanzarote, Canary Islands.
    acre foot of desalinated water is often 2-4 times more expensive than other water
    sources.
    Ocean desalination is not efficient. It requires roughly two gallons of ocean water for
    every one gallon of freshwater produced. This means one large desalination facility is
    not going to solve regional water supply problems.
    Are there alternatives to desalination?
    Water conservation, water use efficiency, storm water capture and reuse, and recycled
    water expansion are proven effective strategies to increase regional water supplies
    and often cost less than desalination. In addition, these alternatives provide pollution
    abatement, habitat restoration, and flood control benefits, which are commonly
    overlooked during cost/benefit assessments.
    What is Heal the Bay’s stance on desalination?
    Before desalination is even explored, it is important that water conservation, water use
    efficiency, storm water capture and
    reuse, and recycled water
    expansion are maximized.
    Each day roughly 10 million
    gallons of urban runoff flows
    through Los Angeles County
    stormdrains, picking up pollutants
    and eventually reaching the ocean
    without the benefit of any
    treatment. That volume raises to
    10 billion gallons during a rain.
    Capturing, treating, and reusing
    this water could be a significant
    local water source.
    Hyperion Wastewater Treatment
    Facility releases more than 250 million gallons of treated water into Santa Monica Bay
    every day. If all of Hyperion’s water was treated to a higher standard and reused, it
    could substantially reduce the region’s reliance on imported sources while
    simultaneously creating a new source of local water in the region.
    If desalination is pursued as a freshwater source, it must use the best available
    technology to minimize marine life impacts. The State Water Resources Control Board
    recently adopted a desalination policy requiring desalination plants in California to use
    subsurface intakes, or minimize their marine life impacts via surface intakes to a level
    consistent with subsurface intakes.
    The marine impacts from ocean desalination facilities can be significant; we want to
    ensure that these impacts are avoided at all costs.

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