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Example Essay Excerpt
Purifying water with any kind of fuel is not going to be inexpensive. During planning for the big Feather River Project, Californians investigated doing the job with sea-water conversion plants. The Feather River conduits will deliver 1.3 billion gallons per day to Southern California. Preliminary plans indicated that it might be possible to build giant distillation plants producing more than 100 million gallons a day -- the OSW's biggest to date has produced only 1.4 million gallons a day, remember. There was one big flaw in the plan, however. Each of these big installations would have required 6.5 percent of Southern California's entire natural-gas output, and it would take ten of them to do the job. Desalting sea water would require two-thirds of all the natural-gas power in the area. Understandably, work was pushed on the Feather River Project.
At present our government believes it can desalinate sea water at a cost of $1.25 per 1000 gallons. For a thirsty man, this seems dirt cheap, but to that figure must be added other expenses, including costs of transporting sea water to the plant and fresh water into homes. These transportation charges are well fixed; the problem is to reduce the expense of conversion. Some authorities feel that artificially produced fresh water is so costly of fuel that it will never be widely used for agriculture, which accounts for most of the world's water consumption, or for industry. Obviously human beings won't starve before they sacrifice wealth for food, but present use of desalinated sea water for farming is limited to the island of Guernsey in the English Channel. When droughts occur, the island's tomato crop suffers, and since this is the big business on that island the farmers have installed a 600,000-gallons-per-day standby distillation plant as insurance against the times when it doesn't rain.
An example of industrial sea-water use in the United States is the steam-electric power generating plant of the Southern California Edison Company at Mandalay Beach, California, where a distillation plant desalts ocean water at the rate of 100,000 gallons a day for the power plant. In addition to combination electric-power-desalting plants, there is another approach that may help lower the cost of desalination. The ocean is about 3 1/2 percent mineral, and we need minerals, too. Of 77 important minerals, for example, the United States has an ample domestic supply of only 11. How about "mining" the sea for these needed materials?
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