Environmental Protection

Westlands Water District Funds Pilot Using Salt-CO2 Conversion

Westlands Water District and Ag-Water New Sky, LLC, will develop an integrated drainage water treatment facility in California’s Central Valley.

The project combines conventional desalination technology with salt conversion technology developed by New Sky Energy of Boulder, Colo. The project will design and build a demonstration water treatment facility that converts high salinity drainage water into fresh water for irrigation and financially valuable carbon dioxide-negative products derived from the waste salts.

The first phase of the project is projected to break ground in the Central Valley in the second half of 2010. When fully deployed, the $3.2 million project will desalinate approximately 240,000 gallons of drainage water per day and convert approximately five tons of waste brine salts into carbon neutral and carbon negative chemicals such as acid, caustic soda, and solid carbonates like limestone and soda ash. In addition, the project will trap approximately 2.8 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) daily.

“Westlands is the largest agricultural water district in the country, and all of our farmers are dealing with urgent water-supply issues,” said Tom Birmingham, the district's executive director. “New Sky Energy’s salt conversion technology is a top priority for our district and we are extremely excited about the prospects for cost-effective water treatment they may create.”

“This project opens up an entirely new path to cost-effective water treatment in the Central Valley,” said Deane Little, Ph.D., founder of New Sky Energy. “By converting drainage water into fresh water and clean chemicals we can help solve freshwater shortages and drainage water pollution while creating clean tech jobs at the same time. We are excited to be putting our clean technology to work for California farmers and helping to transform waste into revenues.”

New Sky Energy will work with Westlands through a joint venture partner, Ag Water – New Sky, LLC to build and deploy the water treatment plant. Ag Water – New Sky will provide reverse osmosis desalination equipment; New Sky will provide its carbon negative electrochemical technology to process the waste brine stream generated by desalination. Westlands will provide the raw drainage water and use the clean water generated by the plant for irrigation.

“The desalination of Central Valley drainage water will typically produce 8-10 tons of solid waste per acre foot of water treated,” said Ron Smith, chief executive officer of Ag Water – New Sky, LLC. “With our advanced treatment systems and the New Sky Energy technology, we will convert these solid waste materials to valuable agricultural and industrial commodities.”

Westlands encompasses more than 600,000 acres of farmland in western Fresno and Kings counties. The district serves approximately 600 family-owned farms that average 900 acres in size, delivering water through the Central Valley Project and a network of 1,034 miles of underground pipe. In many parts of the district, salts are accumulating in the soil from the application of imported irrigation water. Without proper drainage and disposal, this saline water can impact the root zones of plants, preventing crop growth and reducing yields.

For the Westlands project, New Sky will process salts extracted from drainage water to capture CO2 from the air. That process will produce several clean chemicals, which in turn can be sold to subsidize the desalinization plant costs. Little said the Westlands project will supply several potential benefits, including:

  • new source of clean water from salty drainage water;
  • elimination of desalination brine waste by conversion of salts to useful products;
  • carbon negative products from CO2; and
  • new clean manufacturing jobs in the Central Valley.

“Farmers are the original stewards of the lands and by working with Westlands and Ag Water – New Sky, we are developing a cost-effective water treatment process that provides positive results for farmers, the economy and the environment,” said Little.

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