Desalination is a process through which seawater is turned into fresh drinking water. As Californians, many of us read dire news about the drought and look out at the Pacific wondering why we can’t just get all the drinking water we need from the largest ocean in the world.
Wonder no more. California is soon to be home to the largest operating desalination plant in the Western hemisphere. The plant should open in November of this year in Carlsbad in San Diego County. It’s $1 billion project that has taken 12 years of planning. The plant will provide California with up to 50 million gallons of water every day. As great as that sounds, there are quite a few groups opposed to the project. 
Critics of desalination point to the high-energy cost and environmental impact. Desalination takes a great deal more energy than other options, which takes its toll on the environment via greenhouse gases. It can also have a negative impact on the local marine environment as fish, fish eggs and plankton may be sucked into the plant, which would guarantee their death. 
On the other hand, we need water. California is drying up. Proponents of desalination don’t deny the environmental impact, but suggest it is a necessary sacrifice for a drought-proof water source. It may be too costly to rely on as our entire state’s water source, but it’s easy to imagine that most people would rather pay more for water than have no water. 
We’ve spent a billion dollars on the biggest desalination plant in the hemisphere, another billion on recycling runoff and sewage, and there are efforts in motion to place monitors in the water grid to detect leaks. And we are still bone dry. 
Desalination may not be ideal, but it may also be absolutely necessary. We have to keep looking for new ways to collect, create, and preserve the most precious resource there is: water.
Kit Berry is a tower staff writer. Email her at happycowsmmmmcheese(at)