Mandatory water conservation has come to the state of California and that means that we will have to reevaluate the usages that we support. It means: Do we have parks and cemeteries over pools and front lawns? The issue is a critical one for the moment, and certainly it could be a result of the global warming trend and the change in weather patterns that are being felt across the country.

Here in glorious Santa Monica, where we average 310 days of sun, we enjoy the balance of sun/heat/beach/pool and healthy living in balance. We have our own water supply and we do a decent job of managing it. Unfortunately that is not the case across the state and as much as we like to live in the bubble between the Pacific Ocean and Centinela Avenue, the reality is that we live in a much larger state with larger issues to consider.

As the reportedly seventh-largest world economy, California is a major player on the world stage in terms on food production, products, technology and entertainment. We are usually at the forefront of technological solutions to real world problems, whether it is medical care or how to reserve a table at our favorite pasta place.

Technology is amazing and the more we knew the more we can accomplish. When government funds technology it benefits the wider society. So I’m in favor of government doing big projects, like NASA. I’m not in favor of how it’s funded sometimes, which is why back in 2008 I voted against 1A the bond measure that funds our high speed rail project that is projected to have a San Francisco to Los Angeles leg completed in 2029. This is and was a project that I think we don’t really need and if the demand was there someone would have built it already.

Contrast that with the need for a steady water supply in a state that we know has historical droughts. As a kid I recall drought years where lawns went brown and catchy phrases were used to teach us conservation.

Which is why I wonder how come we haven’t built an infrastructure that provides for large scale desalination in an environmentally friendly way? I know there are problems with desalination plants in theory — the intakes can cause marine life loss, but that seems to alleviated if we did below the sand intakes — using the sand as a natural first stage filter. There’s the waste that it produces that is too salty and mineral heavy for mass dumping — but again that could be offset with both dispersion nozzles and mixing with pretreated waste water.

Given that California is a major producer of food for the rest of the world, it would seem to be a public benefit to have a system of desalination plants and that we should be plowing our money into the technology that makes that happen, as opposed to building a high speed rail that will get me from L.A. to San Francisco in 2 hours when I can fly it in one?

It seems to me that rather than have Nestle drain our aquifers and then sell us the water we’d be much better off, as a society, if we had a constant source of clean water that made the state a much greener place. The increase in green space and forests could actually be a factor that helps ameliorate the weather patterns and provide us with even greater groundwater reserves than we normally average.

Private companies could certainly build desalination plants and I’m sure some will, but the point for me is that if we are going to spend over $30 billion on a high speed rail that frankly will not be used by the majority of people, why aren’t we spending money on something that will benefit everyone?

Given the enormous size of the ocean, it’s estimated to be 11,000-plus meters deep at the lowest point of the Mariana’s Trench, there’s more than enough water there to be desalinated, used to grow crops, provide forests and green space and be recycled with nary anyone noticing.

Plus the benefits of having more green spaces helps reduce the CO2 and increases the oxygen levels and would be good everyone.
I just don’t see the downside to a big public works project for a major desalination program. Let’s scrap that rail and do something really useful.

David Pisarra is a Los Angeles divorce and child custody lawyer specializing in father’s and men’s rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at or (310) 664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra.

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