Orange County's True Price of Desalination

While Industry 4.0 is reappearing as the next big thing for technology suppliers, California has embraced large-scale desalination to combat water scarcity. However, new guidelines on intakes and discharges could be a game-changer for the State.

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While Industry 4.0 is reappearing as the next big thing for technology suppliers, California has embraced large-scale desalination to combat water scarcity. However, new guidelines on intakes and discharges could be a game-changer for the State.

My feet hurt. That's something I'm sure most of you said at one point if you visited the Achema show in Frankfurt in June. It's truly massive. To be more specific: nearly 4000 exhibitors and 170,000 visitors.

Focusing on process engineering, there's much of the show that isn't relevant to water and wastewater professionals but there's also a lot that is. All the major pump and valve companies were out in force. One theme that reared its head again was Industry 4.0, Big Data and the Industrial Internet. Being a cynical journalist, naturally I was a little sceptical when these terms started being bandied about by the major companies. But it looks like they are here to stay.

Speaking to a major power and water company on the issue, they told me that rather than finding out when equipment has broken down minutes or hours before, the equipment of the future will tell us days, weeks and even months before. This could effectively mean equipment parts are replaced prior to failure, saving plant downtime in the long-term and OPEX costs.

In theory, fantastic -- smart devices, all linked together, providing streamlined data to make operators' jobs easier. But, and here comes that cynicism, what about the reality? In an industry dominated by cost, are customers prepared to pay the extra dollar to have more intelligent machines?

On the topics of extra dollars, a big focus of this issue, as you can tell from the cover, is California's desalination plans (see page 30). We take a look at how Orange County has had to embrace desalination to counter the prospect of long-term drought. As well as the much publicised Carlsbad mega plant coming online later this year, smaller plants have operated well in California for over 50 years. Even the mothballed Santa Barbara project, with parts removed and sent to the Middle East, is being reviewed for a refurbishment to bring it back online.

Interestingly, as you can read in the article, new guidelines were introduced by the California State Water Resources Control Board this May for seawater desalination plants, which give the state control over intakes and discharges. The State guidelines will require an organisation to explore using a subsurface intake, and if it is not feasible, to seek a permit for an open intake.

No doubt the impact of these guidelines will be discussed in detail at the IDA World Congress taking place in San Diego, California at the end of August. Our team from the UK and US will be there so come and say hello! I'd love to know your thoughts on some of these issues.

Tom Freyberg
Chief Editor

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