S.V. Bliss already uses wind, solar and desalination systems. What next? Biodiesel?
For a news junkie like me, reading a newspaper is an excellent way to improve my Spanish. I have a copy of EXPRESO, a periodical based in Hermosillo (capital of Sonora state) next to my computer, with Ultralingua at the ready for those bewildering words and expressions I stumble on. With deadline over, I can poke my head out of my figurative prairie dog burrow and see what's going on in the world, specifically my new home, Mexico.
The lead article a couple of days ago was titled "Ahogados por Morosos" which translates into "Drowning in Delinquents"...not bad kids, but people who don't pay their water bills. The article says only 48% of water users are paying their bills on time. This is the main reason water isn't available 24 hours a day in Hermosillo. Some colonias (neighborhoods) have access to water 16 hours per day. Others can turn on the tap 8 to 12 hours a day.
Earlier this year, San Carlos had a similar problem. The community bulletin board would report one or another neighborhood could expect shutoffs just about every day. Finally, there was a townwide shutoff while COPAES, the water company, moved a major main from one location to another, explaining that it had been occupying land not belonging to the company. Three days without water in the middle of summer was an ordeal, but apparently the move resulted in replacement of much of the pipe, and now the shutoffs are very rare.
A sidebar in the EXPRESO article mentioned that several options are being considered to improve water service. The one that caught my eye was the possibility of a desalination plant that would serve not only Hermosillo, but Guaymas, Empalme and (maybe) San Carlos. So I Googled "desalination in Mexico" to see if there was a precedent for this process of reclaiming salt water, and found the following article in the Trade Commission Newsletter, August 2003:
The construction of the first desalination plant in the Mexican state of Sonora is nearing completion at the Tucson, Arizona-based Offshore Group's Bellavista Industrial Park in Empalme.
Empalme is located on the Gulf of California's Sonora coast (next to Guaymas and San Carlos). When the facility is operational it will supply 75,000 gallons/day of water for industrial use to The Offshore Group's manufacturing firm clientele. The company is the largest provider of comprehensive industrial support (shelter) services in Mexico to firms in the automotive, aerospace, medical device, optics and electronics industries. The desalinization plant is being built by Vivendi Universal's US Filter division.
Oh, well, that was for industrial use. The proposed new plant the EXPRESO article referred to will be in Cochorit, a beach community of Empalme. But these plants aren't cheap to build, and the debt has to be carried by the users, so the water bills have to be paid. Agua de Hermosillo is going to have to get tough with their morosos.
I found that the first-ever desalination plant in Mexico for residential use was built by Colima Development (based in Minnesota!?) at Santiago Bay, near Manzanillo, where the Capt. and I began our adventures this year.
A small operation that sounded exciting in Costa de Cocos, just north of Belize, was reported by Robin Daugherty on her expat website, The Robin Sparks Page:
Costa de Cocos was one of the first eco-conscious hideaways in Mexico. The resort's electricity is windmill-generated and an on-site desalination plant recaptures seawater and serves up solar heated water via a reverse osmosis purification process.
Wow! Solar-heated water, desalination, windpower, all on one site. And it wouldn't be easy to maintain, on the hurricane-prone east coast of Mexico.
Looking for an easily digestible explanation of desalination, I checked out Wikipedia for a pretty good explanation here. I learned that in the Middle East and North Africa there are dual-purpose facilities that produce both electricity and desalinized water, a twofer! Then I also saw that nuclear-powered desalination is being developed, with a pilot plant in the USSR. Uh-oh, wouldn't you know they'd put lipstick on that pig and trot it out again. I wouldn't be surprised to hear more of this, as water and its scarcity become a monumental issue in the future.
Desalination, solar, wind...these are some of the ideas I pursued for the ten years I worked as a journalist, and they still light my fire whenever I see any progress. When we visited Ft. Lauderdale earlier this month, I insisted on renting a Toyota Prius, the hybrid I've been dreaming of owning for three years. It cost us an extra $10 a day for our choice of car, but "Hey, this is research!" I told the Capt. We drove around the flatlands of Ft. Lauderdale for four days, getting lost a number of times, and still managed to spend only $2.66 on gas. I'd buy a Prius in a hot second, except that we live in Mexico now, and finding a mechanic who could service it would be just about impossible. I came here from Gualala, where I knew seven people driving Priuses. Here in Mexico I have yet to see one!
One thing I like about our boat is that it demonstrates several types of alternative energy. Wind drives us across the water. A wind generator on the stern boosts our batteries. Two solar panels run our refrigeration. We have a watermaker that produces drinking-quality water from seawater--our own desalination plant. We're gradually replacing our below-deck lighting system with LEDs, which last considerably longer than ordinary lights.
I'm hoping to improve on these systems in the new project boat we've bought; for one thing, the hull shape is more conducive to efficient movement through the water than our present Morgan, which does have a tendency to waddle through the waves. And I'm hoping someday, on those occasions when we have to use our diesel engine, we might be able to fuel it with biodiesel. Imagine, instead of stinking like a city bus, we'd emit fumes that smell more like french fries!