We grew up in the Oak View community in Huntington Beach. Like all Californians, our Oak View neighbors are aware of the ongoing drought. We want safe, reliable water for today and tomorrow. We also expect it to be affordable for families, and that is why we take the marketing efforts of the desalination industry with a grain of salt. Orange County voters and water customers deserve to understand the costs of any projects they will have to pay for.
Earlier this month, William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI) and Sextant Research released an internet survey that was designed to show Latino support for desalination. As organizers in Oak View, we knew right away that the survey results did not represent the views of my community, so we dug into the background materials to understand how it was conducted. The first thing we noticed is that respondents had to receive an email to participate, therefore, our parents could not participate. The second thing we noticed was that the survey was conducted in English, so some people in our community could not participate. The biggest problem, though, is that the survey left out vital information to help voters decide which water investments they support: it said nothing about cost.
A new study released this month by the Pacific Institute helps put our choices in perspective. This independent report shows what ratepayers in San Diego already know: seawater desalination is by far the most expensive water supply.
By contrast, harnessing the rain that falls on our roofs–stormwater that currently gets funneled into drains dumped into the ocean–costs about one quarter as much as treating seawater for drinking. The survey also didn’t educate voters about recycled water, which will soon supply almost half the drinking water we need in Orange County, for a fraction of the cost of desalination.
Pursuing expensive water projects when we aren’t even maximizing the more cost effective solutions doesn’t make sense. Members of my community cannot afford the increases in their water bill that would be passed on to ratepayers from costly projects like the Poseidon desalination plant.
Aside from the high cost of desalination, the WCVI poll doesn’t mention any of the environmental consequences that come with desalination. It’s already known that desalination plants harm marine life, but what isn’t known is the impact of the highly concentrated salty brine they spew back into the ocean. The Carlsbad desalination plant that Poseidon built last year has racked up more than a dozen water quality violations for polluting the nearby coastline. Oak View is already ~200ft away from a waste transfer station that impacts the community with constant foul-smelling odors. The last thing we need is to worry about where the waste from desalination will go and how it will impact our existing water supply.
In volunteering in the Oak View Community and in speaking with our neighbors, we know that environmental concerns are top priorities for Latinos. Let’s present the Latino community with all of the evidence about the costs and the environmental impacts of water projects to address before jumping to conclusions about what the community wants.
Oscar Rodriguez is co-founder of Oak View ComUNIDAD, a grassroots group advocating for the Oak View community in Huntington Beach. He is a recent graduate from California State University, Long Beach and is currently working on pre-requisites for medical school. He is currently working as a high school academic advisor in Buena Park and Huntington Beach.
Victor Valladares is co-founder of Oak View ComUNIDAD, a grassroots group advocating for the Oak View community in Huntington Beach. He also sat on the Citizens Participation Advisory Board (CPAB) for the City of Huntington Beach which allocated nearly 1 million dollars in CDBG fund for the 2016/2017 fiscal year. Currently, he is running for Coast Community College Trustee, Area 3 which includes Golden West College, Orange Coast College and Coastline.
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