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Ensuring a water supply

| By Dorothy Lozowski

This past December marked the dedication of the largest seawater desalination plant in the U.S. The Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, named for the former Carlsbad, Calif. mayor who was instrumental in choosing the location, is designed to provide 50 million gallons of water per day to San Diego County from the Pacific Ocean, to help minimize the area’s vulnerability to drought. This $1-billion project includes the desalination plant that uses reverse osmosis (RO), a 10-mile pipeline and upgrades to facilities to distribute the water.

As California confronts its fifth year of drought conditions, water shortage concerns are at the forefront of the public’s attention. A recent poll by the Hoover Institution (Stanford, Calif.; asked 1,800 Californians to prioritize policy concerns facing the state. Dealing with the state’s water problems was a top finisher. And, in another question, more than half said they would vote to end a high-speed rail project and use the unspent money on water-storage projects instead.

The Carlsbad project may well serve as an example for future desalination projects in the U.S. There is already a proposal to build another facility of the same capacity in Huntington Beach, Calif. (


A global concern

While the Carlsbad mega-project is the largest seawater desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere, it is not the largest in the world. The Sorek Desalination Plant in Israel, which also uses RO technology, makes that claim, with a capacity of about 165 million gallons of water per day. The Sorek facility was commissioned in 2013.

Water scarcity is a global issue, and technology plays a key role in finding ways to ensure water supplies where needed. For example, according to the Carlsbad Desalination Project website (www., “dramatic technological improvements have made desalination much more cost-effective.” Specifically, the longer lifetimes, energy efficiency and lower cost of RO membranes as compared to just 10 years ago were cited as cost saving advances.

The contributions of engineers and scientists are vital to finding viable ways to help alleviate water shortages. Water conservation, reuse and wastewater treatment are all important. And only through continuing work will further advances to help make desalination more economical be possible

Some of the most recent technologies related to water as reported in Chemical Engineering include development of an organosilane-based membrane for desalination (January 2016, p. 7); “switchable solvent” technology for forward osmosis (November, 2015, p.13); a new gas-transfer membrane for biological wastewater treatment (November, 2015, p. 7); and several new wastewater-treatment studies as reported in this issue (pp. 8–9).


Inside this issue

Our February issue covers a wide variety of topics, including our cover story on boilers (pp. 38­–47), a news story on advances in paints and coatings (pp. 16–20), an article on managing small- and medium-sized projects (pp. 54–57), a feature report on materials selection for machining processes (pp. 48–53) and much more. We hope you enjoy it.■

CHE_Editor_DL_21   Dorothy Lozowski, Editor in Chief