Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Key Marin County hearing on desalination

Kelly Zito in the San Francisco Chronicle: The largest water agency in Marin County is set to become the first in the region to dip a drinking straw into San Francisco Bay. If the $105 million project to de-salt about 5 million gallons of bay water each day is approved this evening as expected, about 190,000 residents could begin imbibing water from the sea by 2014.

Though the system has drawn fierce criticism over potentially high costs, energy consumption and impacts on marine life, the Marin Municipal Water District's desalination gambit marks the first of many across the Bay Area and the state.

Up and down the coast, about 20 similar projects are in the works, including a joint test project by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, East Bay Municipal Utility District, Contra Costa Water District and others.

California's water districts are trying to "find a backup water supply that is sustainable, and it makes sense that they're looking out the window at the ocean and saying, 'Well, look at all that water,' " said Bruce Wolfe, executive officer of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Control Board, the regulatory body that will ultimately decide whether to grant the Marin project key permits to pull water from the bay.

Marin's position at the forefront of the desalination wave owes in part to its small water system. The Marin agency relies heavily on seven reservoirs located in the Mount Tamalpais watershed. When those lakes are full, the district has enough water to supply customers for two years. During dry spells, however, the district has few options….

California State Route 1 in Marin County, shot by Constantine Kulikovsky, Wikimedia Commons, under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 License

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