Faced with California's worsening drought and shrinking local water supplies, Santa Barbara is looking to the sea for salvation. The coastal city is prepared to spend upward of $40 million to reactivate a mothballed seawater desalination plant that opened in 1992 and shut down just three months later.
"We're looking at desalination as a very last resort in the next year," said Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider. "We know it's a very big decision to take—and yet at the same time we've done everything we could with our other water supply options."
Last week, California Gov. Jerry Brown announced the first-ever statewide mandatory water reductions in cities and towns across the drought-stricken state to reduce water usage by 25 percent. It follows the most recent measurement of the Sierra Nevada snowpack, which supplies about a third of the state's water needs. The snow was at its lowest level on record, or 5 percent of normal for this time of year.