The California Coastal Commission unanimously rejected Poseidon Water’s proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant. Despite the promised 50 million gallons of water per day, the commission decided it wasn’t worth the risk to both sea life and residents’ water bills.
California is facing a megadrought, which is expected to get even worse. Water levels in Nevada’s Lake Mead have receded to historic lows. But conservation groups spoke out against the desalination plant, some going as far as to accuse people in favor of it of wanting to “continue to hose down driveways and have lavish water wasting landscapes,” according to ABC Los Angeles station KABC.
Desalination plants are notoriously expensive, at about two or three times the cost of water conservation measures like reusing wastewater. Orange County already has a groundwater replenishment system. It pumps 35 million gallons per day into injection wells, where it forms a seawater intrusion barrio. It pumps about 65 million gallons per day into percolation basins in Anaheim. There the water filters through gravel and sand back into the aquifers to augment drinking water supply.
Poseidon Water built a desalination plant in San Diego County in 2015 which now supplies about 10% of the county’s water. The desalination giant was bummed by the California Coastal Commission’s decision regarding Huntington Beach. Poseidon said in a statement: “California continues to face a punishing drought, with no end in sight. Every day, we see new calls for conservation as reservoir levels drop to dangerous lows. We firmly believe that this desalination project would have created a sustainable, drought-tolerant source of water.”
It’s a scary situation. But for now, the commission and conservation groups are putting sea life and less expensive water bills over the convenience of desalination.
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