Energy & Environment

Floating an Idea

An Alaskan businessman wants to fill gigantic plastic bags with water from rivers in Northern California, and tow them via tugboat to San Diego to provide drinking water for residents.
by | September 2002

An Alaskan businessman wants to fill gigantic plastic bags with water from rivers in Northern California, and tow them via tugboat to San Diego to provide drinking water for residents.

While San Diego officials are all ears about the proposal, the city has yet to engage in any negotiations with Ric Davidge, president of Alaska Water Exports and a former Alaska water official. "If he floats water in the bay and we get drinking water out of it, we certainly are interested," says Kurt Kidman, a spokesman for the city of San Diego. "We are dependent on imported water no matter how much conservation we do."

In the past, San Diego has entertained several interesting proposals, including a plan to tow an iceberg through the Pacific to Southern California. Davidge says that the bag-and-drag water process is being employed in the Greek Islands and Cyprus by other companies.

So far, though, Davidge has not proven that he can get the water, treat it and sell it, Kidman says, nor does San Diego want a water war with its northern neighbors. When word of the plan to pump water from the Albion and Gualala rivers got around, supervisors in Mendocino passed a resolution opposing the plan and the city of Albion formed a group called FLOW--Forget Lifting Our Water. Opponents are especially concerned about damage to wildlife from pipes that would be sunk into riverbeds.

Davidge says water would only be harvested from those rivers during the rainy winter season when the flow is high, and that the process has less environmental impact than desalination or dams or other ways of getting water.

If Davidge could work out the details and make the idea float, Kidman says the city would be "irresponsible" not to consider it. "If he could get the water to us, we would buy it."

Ellen Perlman
Ellen Perlman  |  Former columnist
mailbox@governing.com  | 

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