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Australia Offers Lessons In Mitigating California’s Drought

Australia Offers Lessons In Mitigating California’s Drought

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Is California doing enough to become water secure in the middle of the continuing drought? Some may wonder.

Experts around the world are tackling issues related to desalination at the IDA World Congress on Desalination and Water Reuse, which started Sunday in San Diego. The conference comes as the long-awaited Carlsbad Desalination Project is set to go online this fall.

Australia knows all too well how devastating a drought can be. The country’s so-called "Millennium drought" started in 1995 and ran through 2009. In response to the worst drought on record, Australia built a $10 billion seawater desalination program, constructing six major plants around the country.

Neil Palmer, CEO of National Centre of Excellence in Desalination in Australia, said the drought was the worst drought in 1,000 years.

"The crisis initiated action," Palmer told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday. "Most of the desalination that is happening is in western Australia. It has a similar climate to the western United States."

Palmer said Australians have also initiated recycling and groundwater use.

But in San Diego County, there's concern surrounding the Carlsbad Desalination Plant.

Matt O'Malley, legal and policy director of San Diego Coastkeeper, said there's concerns about the intake and discharge of the plant.

"We're primarily concerned with the amount of energy it takes to run the plant," O'Malley said. "We do think there are water sources that are environmentally benign."

O'Malley said Coastkeeper will be monitoring the effects of the desalination plant when it comes online.

Carlsbad Desalination Plant

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Aerial view of Carlsbad Desalination Plant in this undated video. San Diego County Water Authority

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