Quantcast

The Solar Technology That Could Solve California's Water Problem

The founders of a California company are gearing up to make a difference in their state's future—about 2 million gallons worth of a difference.

As the state battles a lengthy drought and considers spending $7 billion to $9 billion to produce, transport and store fresh water, WaterFX, a San Francisco-based, independent water producer says it has been testing a potential solution for the past year.

In Fresno County, WaterFX has been converting irrigation runoff to pure water at its solar thermal desalination plant as part of a project for the Panoche Water and Drainage District. According to a San Francisco Chronicle report, it's the only solar-based desalination plant in the country. It currently produces 14,000 gallons per day, but its owners say that amount could grow to 2 million in the near future.

"Eventually, if this all goes where I think it can, California could wind up with so much water it's able to export it instead of having to deal with shortages," co-founder Aaron Mandell told the publication. "What we are doing here is sustainable, scalable and affordable."

The plant uses Concentrated Solar Still technology through a large solar reflector that focuses the sun long tubes with mineral oil. The heated tube creates steam to condense contaminated water into pure water, separating the minerals. Mandell said he hopes to process about 10 times the amount of water within five years. The solar desalination plant produces water for $450 per acre-foot—about one-quarter of what more typically desalinated water costs.

Farmers in the test area are on board and excited to see what the future holds.

"This situation right now is a killer, and anything that adds to a potential water supply is good," Mike Stearns, a fourth-generation farmer in the Panoche district, told the San Francisco Chronicle. Sterns said the drought will force him to fallow much of his tomato and onion fields this year.

"It appears this solar system will be cost-effective, and if Aaron can perform as we think he can, it can make a huge difference—be a great supplement at the very least," Dennis Falaschi, manager of the Panoche district added. "We're talking about basically unusable drainage water that is in everybody's interest to mine.

"This solar plant could be a very important part of where we want to be in terms of being self-sufficient in the valley."

Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored

Thirsty? Here Are 9 Types of Water You Can Drink

Plus, learn if there's one that's best for your health.

Catherine Falls Commercial / Moment / Getty Images

By Jennifer Still

You hear it all the time: You should be drinking more water. How much depends on the person, but generally speaking, staying well hydrated offers a host of health benefits. That includes higher energy levels and better brain function, just to name a few.

Read More Show Less
An invasive Amynthas worm, also known as a crazy snake worm, Asian jumping worm and Alabama jumper Tom Potterfield / Flickr

By Jason Bittel

My wife and I built a house two years ago on a few acres of woodland outside of Pittsburgh. The backyard is full of maples, poplars, briars and common spicebush. Two-lined salamanders and grumpy-looking crayfish wade among the rocks in the small stream that runs down the edge of the property. Deer, raccoon and opossum tracks appear regularly in the snow and mud. Sometimes, my trail-cam even catches a pair of gray foxes as they slink through the night.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
AleksandarNakic / Getty Images

By Kate Murphy

No matter the time of year, there's always a point in each season when my skin decides to cause me issues. While these skin issues can vary, I find the most common issues to be dryness, acne and redness.

Read More Show Less

David Woodfall / The Image Bank / Getty Images

By Sam Nickerson

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in April 2018 proposed relaxing standards related to how it assesses the effects of exposure to low levels of toxic chemicals on public health.

Now, correspondence obtained by the LA Times revealed just how deeply involved industry lobbyists and a controversial, industry-funded toxicologist were in drafting the federal agency's proposal to scrap its current, protective approach to regulating toxin exposure.

Read More Show Less
Steve Irwin poses with a three foot long alligator at the San Francisco Zoo on June 26, 2002. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

February 22 is the birthday of conservationist and beloved TV personality "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin, who would have been 57 years old today.

Irwin's life was tragically cut short when the barb from a stingray went through his chest while he was filming in 2006, but his legacy of loving and protecting wildlife lives on, most recently in a Google Doodle today honoring his birthday.

Read More Show Less