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Drought: Marin, Saudi crown prince eyeing same desalination plants

By Will Houston, Marin Independent Journal, September 20, 2021

“The Marin Municipal Water District, which might deplete its reservoirs by next summer if the drought continues, had considered renting two portable desalination plants for nearly $30 million from Osmoflo, an Australian company. Last week, the district staff said a third plant has become available and that purchasing them might be less expensive than renting.

“However, [Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] wants the same plants for his controversial, futuristic megacity of Neom on the Red Sea, according to Paul Sellier, the water district’s operations director. […]

“Desalination is still the district’s secondary option to prevent it from running out of water as soon as July. The district has prioritized a proposed 8-mile water pipeline across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge that would pump in water purchased from agricultural producers in the Sacramento Valley.

“The proposed pipeline project would require the district’s board to make significant investment decisions in the coming weeks. One is a $20 million decision on Oct. 19 on whether to begin pre-purchasing pipe and other construction materials.

“The desalination option has raised concerns, especially about environmental impacts. Desalination uses four times as much power than the district’s potable water treatment system, according to the district’s previous environmental analysis. […]

“ ‘We have to look at the best of the not-great options and it does seem that the pipeline is really still by far the best option here,’ said Larry Minikes, a Marin Conservation League board member.”

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