From a sustainability perspective, the upside of the technology is huge. The US federal government is currently pumping in about seven million-acre feet of water into California’s Central Valley every year. Replacing a “meaningful percentage” of that figure – say, 20%-30% – would be enough to have a dramatic impact on securing water security for the area, says WaterFX’s Mandell.
The implications for sustainable agriculture are also vast. After a successful proof of concept stage, Sundrop is now building a 20-acre greenhouse, which promises to produce 2.8m kg of tomatoes and 1.2m kg of pepper a year. As well as making desert land productive, Sundrop maintains that its approach reduces pesticide use, cuts food miles and results in better tasting produce.
The arguments from a climate-change perspective appear especially attractive. Saudi Arabia’s 30 or so desalination plants, for instance, currently use about 300,000 barrels of crude oil equivalent a day. The trend in other Gulf countries, as well as in Algeria and Libya, is similar. “The status quo is not sustainable,” concludes the World Bank, which describes the elimination of fossil fuel use in desalination as “critical”.
My home state of California is proudly leading the way to a sustainable future by building on our homegrown agriculture and technology industries.
The next step will be using the vast power of the pacific ocean for tidal energy and clean water via solar desalinization.
If its good enough for Saudi Arabia, it’s good enough for America!