“Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink…”
— Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1798, in “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
The reality confronting millions of Californians as they cope with yet another lengthy episode in a seemingly endless series of droughts is that — like Coleridge’s mariner — this state has billions of acre-feet of water clearly visible every day in the form of the Pacific Ocean and its many bays and estuaries.
But that’s briny salt water, containing an array of minerals that make it almost as inaccessible today as it was to that parched, fictitious sailor of 200 years ago.
But it doesn’t have to stay that way. As the price of water goes up, desalinating Pacific waters becomes ever more enticing and it will become more so if the price of taking salts and other impurities out of salt water falls. In short, if the rising price of fresh water ever comes to match a falling cost for purified sea water, expect desalination to begin on a large scale in California.