Desalinization Seems To Be Our Only Option

And so we’re going for it
BY: OLIVER QUINTERO

With the shortage of water we’re all enduring, the pending desalination plant has been a hot topic with everyone. Most of us are excitedly expecting the grand day that it’s finally finished, because we’re thinking all our water problems will be over. Don’t count on it. The new Ensenada desal plant is slated to bring the city an extra 66 gallons of water each second, which should be enough to supply the whole town at the present population.

The dinero is mostly coming from a private company called GS Inima, a Spanish company that was recently acquired by Korean investors.

The project was originally proposed by the local university, which made a study of environmental impact study, to be built in La Mision, but the company that ultimately won the bid advised that operating the plant at that site was unafordable because it was so far away from where the water was needed.  So it was decided it would be built in the city in a location that was controversial because it was just behind a protected area called La Lagunita, (the little lagoon), which many birds called home. The bird huggers were quick to oppose the location, but they got steam rolled over when the Spanish company building the plant promised on a stack of water bottles that they would take good care of the birds’ habitat. Ja ja ja. Of course in Mexico, nobody believes that, but nevertheless, La Lagunita it is.  The project is expected to be finished next year if all goes well. (Another ja ja here, as in what are the chances of that happening?)  The company promises the plant will be set up to quickly double their water production in the future, if needed.

The worrisome part of this build is, the company awarded the contract is the same Spanish company that built the desal plant in Cabo San Lucas. That plant has never run reliably, it is always breaking down, and is shut down for weeks at a time while parts come over from Spain on what must be a very slow boat. So, don’t get your hopes up.

Rosarito wants a desalination plant too

Since 2011 Rosarito officials have been looking into building a desal plant of their very own, but a far more ambitious build this one is.  The Rosarito plant is projected to be a joint venture between the city of Rosarito and the multinational company Consolidated Water Corporation. This plant is going to supply water for Rosarito people, and the leftovers are going to be sold in the U.S. to the thirsty Californians. The maximum capacity of water production for this plant is around 1,160 gallons per second, almost 20 times slicker than the one in Ensenada. If this happens as planned, the plant will be the largest desalination plant in North America.

In the first stage which is expected to be finished by 2017, the plant is expected to reach production of 320 gallons per second, half of which is going to be exported to the U.S. $650 million will be needed for this phase, to be invested over the next two years.

Water officials for Rosarito say that although the city doesn’t currently have a water problem, building this plant is a preventive measure to prepare for growth. And to make money off selling water to the Gringos.

Many people are against the project because, they say, a desalination plant this big is going to mean trouble for the environment. In fact, it has been suggested that the reason there is no desalination plant this big in the U.S. is because environmentalists wouldn’t allow it. Authorities counter this by saying it’s a matter of economies of scale: the larger they make the plant and the more water they produce, the cheaper it is to ram through each gallon of water.

Now San Quintin wants one

At the end of last month an Israeli company, in a joint venture with two Mexican companies, won the bid to build another desal plant, this one in San Quintin.

The water problem in San Quintin is not affecting the people, there water is needed for the thirsty farm fields. Around 50 small, independent farmer owned desal plants are already pumping out clean water in San Quintin.  The reason they have all these little ones, is each farmer got tired of waiting for hid government to step in, got tired of trying to organize the farmers into a cooperative, and built their own plant for their own crops. But desalinating water in these small  plants is more expensive than the cost of running one big plant, so the farmers would like their own municipal water desal plant, please. The desalination plant under study for San Quintin will produce the same amount of water as the one in Ensenada, 66 gallons per second.

What about Cedros Island?

Around 2,696 people live in Cedros Island which is part of the municipality of Ensenada, and because of their geography, water has always been a problem there. Those island people are finally getting a tiny desalination plant which should be just enough for the people there. That plant will produce between 1 to 1.5 gallons of water per second, just about 1/773 part of what the Rosarito plant projected to produce.

All these plants, except the one on Cedros Island, are built in what’s called a “private/public association”.  The private company coughs up most of the money to build it and then sells the water to the city. They have a limited time contract, normally 25 to 30 years, and when that time is up, the infrastructure is passed on to the city for them to control and screw up.

Having desalinated water in Baja is an upgrade from the water we currently use, since it has long been known that the water in this area is not of very good quality. The water table has been so depleted, salt water has crept in, and now ground water is brackish.

If we do this right, this could maybe be the solution we were looking for the water problem, if we do it wrong it could mean the destruction of our delicate marine ecosystems.