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Could offshore desalination solve California’s water woes?

Coastal desalination facilities have long been viewed by some as a way for California to solve its water woes, but such technology has sparked significant controversy over the years because of its high costs, environmental impacts, and intensive energy requirements.

However, new rapidly deployable technologies that aim to treat seawater in the ocean and then pump it onshore are undergoing testing in the Golden State.

Such offshore approaches offer potential solutions to address California’s critical water shortages while reducing the downsides of traditional onshore desalination.

Releasing brine near the water surface offers a “great advantage” when it comes to ensuring that discharges from the buoy do not negatively affect ambient salinity levels, Stricker says. “There's a great natural mechanism for mixing because we're high in the water column and the highest current velocities are up there too,” he notes. “Brine is heavier than seawater, so it sinks.” Modeling conducted by SeaWell indicates that the brine “doesn’t descend very far before the salinity becomes very close to ambient seawater salinity,” Stricker says.


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