Desalination Plants Cause Controversy on U.S. Coasts

With water sources increasingly under pressure — running low, contaminated, or too costly to transport — some cities on the U.S. coasts are turning to desalination plants to provide their drinking water, eliciting protests from some enviros and consumer advocates. New filtering technology has made the once-prohibitive costs of desalination more reasonable, and while there are fewer than 100 desalination plants currently in the U.S., more and bigger facilities are planned, especially for southern California. Objections to the plants fall into two categories. Consumer advocates — still ticked off about the California energy-deregulation fiasco — question whether so vital a public resource should be put into private hands. Enviros, for their part, point out that the intake pipes for such plants frequently pose a danger to fragile aquatic ecosystems, and that a cheap source of water might discourage conservation and encourage unsustainable population growth in areas that many say were never meant for human habitation in the first place.