Drought brings desalination efforts

The drought in California and the predictions of even drier times are generating efforts to desalinate water.

The technology might eventually help Costa Ricans on the Pacific coast of Guanacaste where there is a continual water shortage. In fact, water is one of the key brakes on development there.

Desalination has made headlines in recent months as a possible solution to  California’s water shortage. But in addition to being expensive, its byproduct — salty brine — can harm marine life once it’s reintroduced into the ocean, according to a report from Humboldt State University.

A team of researchers from Humboldt and the University of Southern California is hoping to address those concerns with a new process called reverse osmosis-pressure retarded osmosis.

The team recently received a $600,000 grant from the California Department of Water Resources to develop a portable system in Samoa, California, which could lower the cost of desalination and reduce its impact on the environment, according to a university release.

“The high cost and environmental impact of desalination are major issues preventing it from becoming a reliable, drought-resistant water supply,” said Andrea Achilli, an environmental resources engineering professor at Humboldt State, who holds a patent on the technology with researchers from the University of Southern California and Colorado School of Mines.

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