The La Jolla Research & Innovation Summit held yesterday at the Salk Institute was a smaller and a much more modest affair than the inaugural summit that Connect CEO Duane Roth organized last year. I have some impressions from the morning presentations:
—Climatologist Dan Cayan of UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography explained why multiple computerized models of climate change indicate that Southern California will become significantly hotter and drier over the next 100 years. What Cayan left unsaid is the critical importance of water to the life sciences community in semi-arid San Diego, which gets just 10 inches of rainfall a year (on average) and imports most of its water from Northern California and the Colorado River basin. Biocom, the San Diego regional biotech industry association, began during the drought of 1991, when the San Diego City Council proposed a water-rationing plan that included shutting off water for several hours a day to manufacturers—including life sciences facilities.
—When someone in the audience asked about current prospects for desalination technology, Australian-born Tony Haymet, who is director of Scripps Oceanography, stepped to the microphone to explain that desalination remains very expensive. If I understood him correctly, Haymet said desalination is more than four times the cost of conventional water treatment. In Australia, where much of the population lives in a coastal climate similar to San Diego, Haymet said a prolonged dry spell led to a concerted effort to reduce excessive water use. The results are dramatic. Haymet said urban Australia has reduced its daily water consumption by 77 percent, from 130 gallons per person to 30 gallons per person. In contrast, the Scripps director says average daily water use in California today exceeds 300 gallons per person. So there’s room for improvement. Haymet noted, however, that … Next Page »