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New Desalinization Method From Livermore Lab Could Help California Through Drought

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Ryan Takeo joined KPIX 5 in June of 2013 as a General Assignment...
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ANTIOCH (KPIX 5) — Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Lab have come up with an innovative plan to preserve fresh drinking water during this drought. Scientists have a new way to take the salt out of saltwater.

The Delta is Antioch’s drinking water source. “We have more water than we can possibly use in terms of water rights,” said Antioch City Manager Steve Duran.

But there’s an increasing problem, it’s become too salty to drink. Duran said, “Over the years, it’s getting saltier and saltier.”

Antioch’s city manager said the traditional desalination method is too expensive, because it uses too much energy.

There could be a solution. At Lawrence Livermore lab, Michael Stadermann is working on a process called flow-through desalination.

Think of it like a sponge with magnets inside to attract salt. As the water flows through, the salt is sucked up.

“This does the desalination. This piece,” Stadermann told KPIX 5.

The small piece is the sponge, which has microscopic holes inside. “Now you can push out the water that is in the electrode, and that’s your drinking water.” Stadermann said.

The downside right now is that the tests are small. Stadermann said the process will scale larger.

In fact, the plan is to use Antioch’s Delta Diablo Sanitation District as a large laboratory, to take the city’s brackish water and turn it into drinking water.

“They’ll have a stable water supply throughout the year,” Stadermann said.

But it could be months or years before that begins.

As for the cost, Stadermann said he expects the price to be about what it costs for cities to buy water from somewhere else. Antioch is forced to buy water from other places, but hopes not for long.

“If they can reduce the energy, then it reduces the cost. It makes it more viable,” Duran said.

Currently, Antioch is also working to help researchers get funding from lawmakers and grants.

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