Category Archives: Water Resources

U.S. Drought Indicators Derived From GRACE Satellite Data

Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center generate groundwater and soil moisture drought indicators each week. They are based on terrestrial water storage observations derived from GRACE satellite data and integrated with other observations, using a sophisticated numerical model of land surface water and energy processes. You can see current results for the continental U.S. at the following link to the National Drought Mitigation Center (NMDC), University of Nebraska-Lincoln, website:

Drought indicator maps for 6 July 2015 are reproduced below for:

  • Surface soil moisture
  • Root zone soil moisture
  • Shallow groundwater

The drought in the U.S. West looks most severe in the shallow groundwater map.

You can find information on the twin GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellites at the following link:




Bacteria Could Help Clean Groundwater Contaminated With Uranium

On 15 June 2015, Rutgers University announced the discovery in uranium-contaminated groundwater of bacteria that can breathe uranium and employ it in a reduction chemical reaction that immobilizes the uranium and thereby removes it from solution in the groundwater. Professor Lee Kerkhof, in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, leads the Rutgers team that is working with U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) researchers on this project.

The bacteria were discovered in soil at an old uranium ore mill site in Rifle, Colorado, almost 200 miles west of Denver. The bacteria of interest are from a common class known as betaproteobacteria.

Rifle CO uranium mill siteThe Rifle, CO site today. Source:

The Rutgers University announcement states:

 “This bacterium can breathe either oxygen or uranium to drive the chemical reactions that provide life-giving energy”.

 “Exactly how the strain evolved, Kerkhof said, ‘we are not sure.’ But, he explained, bacteria have the ability to pass genes to each other. So just like bacteria pick up resistance to things like antibiotics and heavy metal toxicity, this bacterium ‘picked up a genetic element that’s now allowing it to detoxify uranium, to actually grow on uranium.’ “

You can read the Rutgers University announcement at the following link:

You can read the April 2015 Rutgers paper, Spatial Distribution of an Uranium-Respiring Betaproteobacterium at the Rifle, CO Field Research Site, at the following link:

An earlier paper published in October 2011, entitled, Influence of Uranium on Bacterial Communities: A Comparison of Natural Uranium-Rich Soils with Controls, identified Acidobacteria, Proteobacteria, and seven others phyla in uraniferous samples. This French study, supported by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, concluded that:

 “…our results demonstrate that uranium exerts a permanent high pressure on soil bacterial communities and suggest the existence of a uranium redox cycle mediated by bacteria in the soil.”

You can read the paper written by the French team at the following link:


Status of Desalination Plants in California

On 9 June 2015, Forbes reported that the Diablo Canyon NPP, located on the coast near San Luis Obisbo, CA, meets 100% of it’s own fresh water needs with it’s own reverse osmosis (RO) + ultrafiltration desalination plant.

Diablo-Canyon-Nuclear-Power-Plant  Source: PGE

Diablo Canyon salination_1 Source: PGE

This is the largest desalinization plant currently operating on the West coast. The current fresh water production rate is 675,000 gallons/day; about 40% of full capacity: 1,500,000 gallons/day (1,681 acre-feet/year). The Forbes article suggests that the Diablo Canyon NPP would quickly be able to help the nearby communities that currently are experiencing a severe water shortage as a result of the four-year California drought. With some additional modular RO units and a pipeline to connect to the public water system, up to 825,000 gallons/day could be delivered for public consumption.

Other operating desalination plants in regular use in California are:

Sand City Coastal (seawater) Desalination Plant in Monterey County: 300 acre-feet/year (268,000 gallons/day).

  • Southern California Edison seawater desalination plant on Catalina Island: 224 acre-feet/year (200,000 gallons/day).
  • Cambria Community Services District brackish water desalination plant, which began operating in early 2015, providing 250 acre-feet/year (223,000 gallons/day), about 35% of the town’s fresh water needs.

Other desalination projects in California include:

  • The Posiedon Water seawater desalination plant in Carlsbad, CA, which is expected to have a capacity of 56,050 acre-feet/year (50,000,000 gallons/day) after it is completed in November 2015. This plant will meet about 7% of San Diego county’s fresh water needs.


Source: San Diego Water Authority

  • The Posiedon Water seawater desalination project in Huntington Beach, which is in the final phase of permitting and is expected to be completed in 2018, also with a capacity of 50,000,000 gallons/day.
  • The Doheny Ocean Desalination Project in south Orange County, which is planned to deliver 16,816 acre-feet/year (15,000,000 gallons/day), with a target completion date of 2020.
  • The city-owned Charles E. Meyer desalination plant in Santa Barbara, which was mothballed in 1992 after a short test period. Plans are being prepared to modernize and re-start this plant, which has a licensed capacity is 7,500 acre-feet/year ( 6,691,0000 gallons/day) and can meet about 30% of the city’s fresh water needs.
  • Four new desalination plants on the Monterey peninsula are in the planning stage:
    • Marina Coast, Armstrong Ranch brackish water desalination plant: 2,700 acre-feet/year (2,409,000 gallons/day)
    • California American Water, Monterey Peninsula Water Supply seawater desalination plant: 9,750 acre-feet/year (8,698,000 gallons/day)
    • Deepwater Desalination, Moss Landing seawater desalination plant: 10,000 acre-feet/year (8,922,000 gallons/day)
    • People’s Project: Moss Landing seawater desalination plant: 13,400 acre-feet/year (11,950,0000 gallons/day)

You can find more details on California desalination plants at the following links:

The Forbes article:

The Diablo Canyon NPP seawater desalination plant (video):

Posiedon Water’s Carlsbad seawater desalination plant:

Posiedon Water’s Huntington Beach seawater desalination plant:

Santa Barbara’s Charles E. Meyer seawater desalination plant:

The several Monterey peninsula desalination projects:

The Cambria brackish water desalination plant:

Catalina seawater desalination plant:

Sand City Coastal (seawater) desalination plant:

The Doheny Ocean (seawater) Desalination Project:

20 December 2015 update

The sea water desalination plant in Carlsbad, CA was officially dedicated on 14 December 2015 in a public ceremony attended by more than 600 elected officials, community leaders and project partners.  Formerly known as the Poseidon desalination plant, the plant was officially named in honor of former Carlsbad Mayor, Claude ‘Bud’ Lewis. A 30-year Water Purchase Agreement is in place between the San Diego County Water Authority and Poseidon Water for the entire output of the plant, which started delivering water earlier in December.  This is the largest sea water desalination plant in the western hemisphere.

You can get more information at the home page for this plant at the following link: