OC Coastkeeper: San Diego Swindled By Desalination, Don’t Let OC Be Next

The Carlsbad Desalination plant has locked San Diego County into financial servitude to Poseidon Water. San Diego is forced to pay for the most expensive water on the market whether they need it or not.

According to Investigative Reporter Rob Davis, in the first year, about eight percent of the water they buy will evaporate while it sits unused in storage. Ratepayers across the County will pay in higher water bills and higher pollution as the plant uses huge amounts of energy to turn seawater into tap water that San Diegans don’t need.

But, Orange County’s deal with Poseidon for a Huntington Beach desalination plant is different than San Diego’s… it’s worse. Unlike San Diego County, Poseidon’s proposal to Orange County attempts to hide the true cost of distributing the water.

That’s why it’s important for residents to attend all Orange County Water District meetings, especially the upcoming meeting on February 3 where they will look at the costs of a new distribution pipeline, the cost of which will be built into water rates.

Like a sleazy car salesman, Poseidon has extended the contract from a 30-year term to a 50-year term and is depending on public subsidies to make the price seem more tenable to decision makers. Of course, the new contract leaves Orange County paying even more in the long run, passing the bill to our children and neighboring counties as well. And unlike other water sources that encourage water conservation, Orange County will have to pay for Poseidon’s water whether we need it or not. What happens to all the water when we don’t need it? We will have to pass on less expensive water supplies or put the desalinated water in our aquifer and pay for it to be treated a second time before using it.

Building the Poseidon Plant will be the same mistake with water that we’ve already done with oil, drilling relentlessly for more no matter the cost, when all we need to do is use more advanced, more sustainable technology. Let’s ditch desalination and save our economy billions.

Where Should We Get Our Drought Proof Water Instead?

Easy! We can expand our stormwater capture and wastewater-recycling programs, especially in South Orange County. Hundreds of millions of gallons of stormwater and treated wastewater is dumped into the ocean every day. It doesn’t make sense to pay a billion dollars for a plant to suck in seawater when we can recycle wastewater and save over a billion dollars on a desalination plant and pipeline system while keeping our water bills lower.

Potable reuse is an efficient use of water that takes water already in our local water systems — it’s more affordable, uses much less energy and doesn’t kill marine life — in fact, it improves the water quality of our oceans by taking impurities out of the water — eliminating the need to discharge polluted waters into the ocean. Talk about a win-win.

What can I do as an Orange County resident to ensure the future of our waters?

If Orange County residents want to ensure the future of the region and its water supply, one of the best things they can do is ask questions. Asking questions, staying informed, attending city meetings and being a part of the conversation is how we can help shape the future of our beautiful community — especially when it comes to desalination.

Orange County Coastkeeper invites Orange County residents to join us the upcoming Orange County Water District meeting on February 3 and learn about the additional costs of this already expensive water, ask questions and voice their opinions.

Get the word out by using the #SayNOtoPoseidon on social media and sharing this and other information you find on why the Huntington Beach desalination plant is wrong for Orange County.

Ray Hiemstra is Orange County Coastkeeper Associate Director of Programs.