GF Blog 23 – Week 7

17th March

Reports from a bulging In-box, plus opinions about a Budget that was a missed an opportunity

Jersey De-salination in a quarry

The word Unprecedented is much used in the media these days. I never want to fall into the trap of over-use myself, but this week it is true. Readers have responded, primarily to the topic of de-salination, with a veritable flood of correspondence. So, to do it justice, I shall simply organise a list, provide links and a little summary of each.

Then, at the end and briefly, comes a consideration of Green credentials of the Spring Budget.

De-salination 1 – Israel

These messages have come from a new reader, writing from Portugal, but with a grasp of the topic across the world. He alerted me to the giant scale of de-salination in the Middle East and especially the issues arising from large-scale operations in Israel.

Hi Caroline

Tony here. I promised some info on Israel… Here it is

Could desalination help prevent water wars in the Middle East? – BBC News

This takes less than 3 minutes to view, as a film, and is a great introduction but short on the info of associated problems. 

Israel is pumping water from the Med to refill a lake | CNN

Israel Proves the Desalination Era Is Here – Scientific American

I followed up on these with further exploration about problems. A source which is only free for one or 2 visits is this – read all in one go, don’t try to dip in and out.

The headline says ‘A slew of water treatment plants has greatly reduced Israel’s dependence on rainwater. But desalination may also be adversely affecting the environment and people’s health.

My further comment – new installations have brought new problems, such as the accumulative effect of large quantities of salt being dumped back into the sea as a by-product of the desalination process. Besides having a significant impact on the environment there are indirect effects on health, both must be addressed.

The treated water is lacking vital minerals such as magnesium, which usually protects against heart disease. Magnesium deficiency also can hurt plants, such as fruit trees, which are a major part of agriculture in Israel. They have started to add magnesium within fertiliser, in the water. If proved that such a supplement is required, it will greatly increase the cost of water.

The strong salt and other chemicals going back into the ocean is another concern, with little information, as yet, on the impacts this can have on deep water and wildlife. These are in addition to the cost and relative inefficiency – for every 2 gallons of sea water only 1 gallon of fresh is produced. These concerns are amplified in a report by an organisation that looks at Californian de-salination and is very opposed:-

Desalination 2 – Jersey

This and the following message arrived by Whats App, from Roger, who says ‘my wife’s sister lived in Jersey, where they have used de-salination for over 50 years! Worth a look?’

HEADLINE Jersey Water commissioned their desalination plant in 1970. It was built in an abandoned quarry close to the sea at La Rosière, Corbiere, at the south-west corner of the Island. Sea water is pumped into a deep pond (quarry pool) within the old quarry before being used for desalination.

As you see, this facility has been operating for many years, so reports of problems or lack of should be a good indicator for those planning new systems. There have been 3 upgrades, over the 50 years of operation, with the most recent increasing its output capacity from 6Ml/day to 10.8Ml/day, which is about half of the Island’s daily demand for water.

I am really interested in how their system works, because Cornwall is full of redundant pits – quarries, clay works and mine lakes, we have loads.

How the desalination plant works

A deep sea water intake shaft and tunnel, constructed below the low tide level on the foreshore, enables sea water to be pumped at all states of the tide, which can vary by as much as 12m. A macerator chops up seaweed and other large matter, then the water is discharged and stored in the quarry pool, where any unwanted debris settles to the bottom.

The first treatment involves downward flow type pressure filters, using Dual Media Filters (DMF) that use a combination of sand and anthracite to filter. On leaving those filters, the sea water is passed through cartridge type filters, to take out even smaller particles ready for the Reverse Osmosis (RO) plant, which is capable of producing 5,400 m3 of fresh water (permeate) per day. (NB Reverse Osmosis was explained last time). 45% of the filtered sea water is converted into fresh water, the remaining reject water (Brine) is returned to the sea.

Energy – Water is supplied to each RO unit by a multi-stage centrifugal pump, operated using variable speed drives, at a pressure of 56 bar (gauge). The sea water rejected from the membranes is under high pressure and operates an energy recovery system, positioned in series with the electrically driven high pressure pumps, allowing recovery of energy which would otherwise be lost.

Reverse Osmosis diagram, Jersey

Desalination 3 – South West Water update

Another email has come from my contact at SW Water, with some interesting further news … some I can share, but mostly not yet! But it is good to read their final paragraph and acknowledge that this is progress, small steps of dialogue, collaboration and respect.

I have copied in the Press Office who are best positioned to advise on providing a representative for your Ceremony of Hope at Lanlivery on the 30th. Going forward, they should also be able to advise on progress with the various schemes ongoing in Mid Cornwall and the wider area.


Critical Water messages – 1) The Guardian

Anna regularly sends lots of items and this one is hot off the press. Her Whats App link took me to the most fearful headline The world is facing an imminent water crisis, with demand expected to outstrip the supply of fresh water by 40% by the end of this decade, experts have said on the eve of a crucial UN water summit.,a%20crucial%20UN%20water%20summit

As there is a summit happening now, I will return to look at this next week.

Critical Water messages – 2) The Professional

It was a pleasant surprise to receive an email from a man who operates a small hydro installation company, in tandem with a much larger one that brings in specialist skills for sensitive heritage areas. He opened with

Thank you for your blogs each week, always something different and thought-provoking, which isn’t easy I’m sure.

Yes Sir, you are correct it can be very demanding! 

I won’t go into detail, but we have had at least 6 exchanges of information, and have a meeting planned next week. Cannot wait to learn from someone with such deep, practical experience of power generation from water.

Now to a change of tone, arising from a number of emails and a long Word document with many YouTube links in it. If you would like the whole thing, please send a request and I can send it to you.

Carbon Capture – the Anti Arguments

This was from another reader, quite well known to me so I can vouch he has a highly intelligent scientific brain and is not a mischief-maker. Mr S has summarised in a substantial document his favourite US expert presentations that tell us we should not fear an increase in CO2, but even welcome it! He should have realised that I – along with most readers – would never spend hours watching a list of extended length YouTube films, however I did watch all of the 1 hour 10 minutes or so of the one at the top of his list. It was certainly of interest to understand the background of the author, Dr. Patrick Moore (not of course the famous UK astronomer of days past), who began his career as one of 6 Directors of Green Peace and the only one, apparently, with a background as an academic scientist.

After about 15 years of passionate Green Peace activism, in opposition to nuclear testing and commercial whaling, Moore had a big falling out with his fellow directors, over Chlorine. He says they wanted it banned across the world at the time, but it turned out to be a stunningly successful treatment for water and ingredient in many drugs. They parted company and thus he started a journey away from ‘received wisdom’. His most recent book (‘Fake Invisible Catastrophes and Threats of Doom’) and his film (link comes a bit later) challenge many modern stories, seeming to expose them as trumped up nonsense. Within this he also criticises our revered UK national green hero – Sir David Attenborough – and seems to expose fake trickery in some of the films he made for the BBC’s Blue Planet.

After a substantial intro about Moore’s life and development, the film eventually arrives at a long section, re-examining the relationship between temperatures and CO2 through millennia. It is very fascinating, but I have absolutely no idea whether any of this can be proved and if so by whom, how?? The main theme is that we have had wide variations of both, through time, and currently are nowhere near the top of an alarmingly high level of CO2. I summarise his words here –

CO2 often matches the dips in temperature into Ice Ages and back up again, but not that closely. Always slightly negative, levels of CO2 (mauve in the diagram below) are most times coming below temperature (turquoise). There was a time of Ice Age when CO2 levels were at 5000 parts per million (ppm), which is 10 times higher than today! The next Ice Age had a drop of CO2 when forests were formed, leading to CO2 being sequestered in dead wood .. as fossil fuels. Then CO2 increased again, which he suggests, as a guess, was when a fungi began to eat away at carboniferous matter.

 WHAT? How can one take him seriously?

He looks at the way temps fall and CO2 rises at all the different points in time, moving into greater detail in our most recent times. At the very tale end of this diagram, the little up-tick is what has turned the previous long, long drop of CO2 back up during and after the Industrial Revolution.

Diagram of Ice Ages, with changing temperatures and CO2 levels

The second 30 minutes of film examines ‘fake news’ and/or ‘fake photos’ with doom-laden headlines. This is where Moore rips Attenborough apart, for showing images of tons of waste plastics supposedly removed from inside an Albatross.

Plastic supposed to have been swallowed
Plastic that really was swallowed
Recovered fishing nets & other waste

He discusses the digestive system and gizzard capabilities of these birds, showing that they do indeed take in hard plastic pieces along with pumice stone & small pebbles. He says that is fine, doesn’t seem to be causing harm. But photos showing plastic bags and other items being eaten are fake. He also calls for action on dumped fishing nets and gear, as these pose the greatest danger to marine wildlife.

Now there is one massive problem with this approach. Look how long it has taken to give even the smallest hints of what Moore and others want to tell us. If an unknown PhD doctor sets out to challenge a very popular expert, like Attenborough, who has a style of delivery that people really love to watch, then that doctor must develop something equally charismatic and engaging in style. It has to be new and probably quite opposite to the steady, measured tones which underpin the BBC documentaries. Also, for most people today, it needs to be snappy. Not one of the US experts I watched in the various films suggested by Mr S has considered and developed these qualities, so their messages – right or wrong – are not going to catch on and be taken seriously.

On one side we have the major governments of almost all countries, driven by economics and profiteering for the most part, I imagine. To provide a credible counter argument, someone powerful has to wade in with $s and set up a new manifesto, powerfully delivered. I cannot see it happening.

As mentioned before, if you want to explore further a) I can email you the document and b) You can give it a go on YouTube. I suggest it is especially worth watching the description of crustaceans building shells from carbon (a massive store of CO2) about 15 minutes into the film, and the very final section, from 1 hour 2 mins, about the supposed benefits of increased plant growth as a result of increasing CO2 levels.

Budget Spring 23 – 2 verdicts

Not had a lot of time for this, but would suggest two sources you may want to visit:-

First a report by our one and only Green MP, Caroline Lucas, on a web page which has quite a lot more to say:-

Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion

“Despite waxing lyrical about his four Es, Chancellor Hunt utterly failed to mention a fifth E – environment.  Just when we needed a solar rooftop revolution, an unblocking and upscaling of renewables, a major street-by-street mass insulation programme, and a commitment to invest in our totally neglected, sewage-filled rivers and seas, we get too slow, too expensive and too dangerous nuclear white elephants.  

 “A Budget that fails to protect our environment gravely risks damaging our economy too.” 

The 2nd view is from London School of Economics, with most concentration on how to use the tax system to incentivise more green investment. We are behind the big economies of Europe and USA, in danger of slipping backwards on the journey to Net Zero. I am unclear what the colour code means, but their diagram shows where UK could have greatest potential, and the biggest of all .. is tidal!

Lower section, right, shows different energy types that UK is most likely to be successful developing

Find the full report here –

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