Use better techniques not desalination for irrigated farming


Desalination may seem like a magic solution to water shortages. It’s not, primarily because it’s expensive. A former mayor of Phoenix thinks the Sea of Cortez should have multiple desalination plants. Much of that water would go for irrigated farming. Watering The Desert says a far better solution is switching to low-water use irrigation. An acre foot of desal water can cost 10x more than regular water. Heavy use of desal water by agriculture also means farmers would have to switch to much higher value crops.

The part of this equation I find especially puzzling is the fact that if you are attempting to grow crops with desalinated water (even from brackish waters) the cost of the produced water is going to be significantly higher than the cost of the next likely water supply. In order to make farming work with such high input costs you need to become much more efficient in your water use and probably grow higher value crops.

5 Responses to Use better techniques not desalination for irrigated farming

  1. Avram Cohen Thu, Jan 16, 2014 at 6:45 pm #

    The new dam being built off Folsom Crossing @ Folsom Lake markets itself to help regulate flood control in Sacramento and that is a bunch of BULL, our Folsom Lake is being drained at night(currently) to send water to the central valley and LA while our economy is and will be destroyed(summer boating, fishing industries etc) while we in our area have to endure water rationing is so wrong! This is our water and our economy and we should be fighting to keep it here and not sending to LA! The largest lake west of the Great Lakes, Tulare Lake 60 by 30 miles is GONE, thanks to the farmers of the central valley, what’s next, our Folsom Lake!???????

    • Bob Morris Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 11:41 am #

      And Central Valley ag says Sac and the Delta are hogging all the water!

      The current water allocation for those farmers this year is 5% of normal.

      Too many people, not enough water is the core of the problem

      • LookingForward Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 9:31 pm #

        Desal is alot cheaper for irrigation, you don’t need drinking water for irrigation.
        Also future desal plants will combine with solarpower for their energy, both heat and electricity, since they are allready build in dry and sunny areas…
        They will also be way more energy efficient, they only need to pump in the water and scrape the bottom of waste and salt every now and then.
        Less personel too, so waaaaaay cheaper.

        • LookingForward Fri, Jan 24, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

          Ok, I was a bit misinformed on the number of ways one can desalinate seawater.
          I apologize for that.
          But still, that big hunking piece of toast-iron in Carlsbad, Ca. will need about 100MW of storage and a 50 mw solar power plant and have energy to spare. Which, right now, would cost about 400 to 450 million dollars, less then half the cost to build the 1 billion dollar plant.
          I think, if they build the solar plant and storage around the time the desal plant is operational, it will probably save about 100 million. In 2016, solar will be about 10 to 15% cheaper then right now and storage 25 to 33% cheaper. And I think that’s being modest, considering the advances that have been made right now, that aren’t on the market yet.
          That cost can easily be earned back in about 7 or 8 years with electricity savings, depending on the interest and the price of electricity.

          • Bob Morris Fri, Jan 24, 2014 at 6:51 pm #

            I hope it happens…