Dry California Whine

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Dry California Whine

According to the United States Drought Monitor government website, 94 percent of California is experiencing at least a severe drought, with 67 percent of the state under extreme drought and 47 percent classified as suffering from extraordinary drought, the worst category.1

Republicans blame the state's governor, Jerry Brown, a Democrat. Democrats blame global warming. Putting aside all of the political rhetoric, what is happening and what are some potential solutions?

Currently, the state is attempting to ease the water shortage by placing restrictions on the amount of water that residents can use. Governor Brown proclaimed this spring that residents must slash their water consumption by 25 percent, with fines of as much as $500 per day for those caught violating the new rules.2

For example, it is now against the law for restaurants and bars to give customers a glass of water unless they are asked to do so. Citizens are being urged to phone water utility hotlines to report their neighbors for using lawn sprinklers, washing their cars, or filling their swimming pools.

Meanwhile, the heaviest user of California's water—the state's agriculture industry—accounts for about 80 percent of California's water consumption. Farms are not required to comply with the restrictions, and they pay a lower rate for water than residential users. Because many of those farms are located in desert regions, it would be impossible to grow crops there without enormous quantities of cheap water subsidized by the government.3

While California struggles to overcome its water shortage, a desert economy 7,500 miles away provides a shining example of how a government can use innovative technologies to increase the water supply, while also instilling a culture of water conservation in citizens to reduce demand.

Only 11 years ago, Israel was completely dependent on groundwater and rain. Today, it operates four seawater desalination plants, which provide 40 percent of the country's water supply. Next year, when more plants are opened, desalination will provide another 10 percent.4

Israel's newest plant, called Sorek, is located 10 miles south of Tel Aviv. Completed just over a year ago, it is the world's largest and cheapest modern seawater desalination plant. It was built by Israel Desalination Enterprises (IDE) Technologies, at a cost of around $500 million.

Sorek uses a conventional desalination technology called reverse osmosis, which filters salt water through polymer membranes that allow fresh water to pass through, while holding salt ions back...

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