California sets environmental rules for desal plants

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desal_plant_t614Desalination – turning ocean water into drinking water – is getting a lot of attention as California struggles through the fourth year of drought. Desalination plants have the appeal of tapping into a seemingly limitless source of water. But they can take a heavy toll on the environment, killing fish and other marine life as the suck in ocean water. They also spew greenhouse gases from the energy they need to run.

With that in mind, state officials have laid out new rules for siphoning water from the sea.

There are more than a dozen desalination projects under consideration right now in California, including a billion-dollar facility in Carlsbad, near San Diego that’s expected to open in a few months. Santa Barbara is reopening a desal plant that was mothballed two decades ago because of the cost of producing drinking water was too high. Monterey is also getting in the desal game.

California is believed to be the first state or country to develop environmental guidelines for desalination plants.