As California continues to struggle with the coronavirus pandemic, leaders must ensure fundamental human rights like clean water. It is essential that we do not allow this crisis to tip the scales in favor of polluters and private water corporations.
Sadly, an OpEd published by the Voice of O.C. just before COVID-19 took hold allowed Jose Barrera, a Sacramento staffer of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), to do just that. The piece regurgitated the misleading talking points of a corporation called Poseidon that is pushing a wasteful, destructive oceanwater desalination plant in Huntington Beach.
To set the record straight, first, desalination is unsustainable, and the $1 Billion facility proposed by Poseidon threatens our climate. Desalinated water is the most energy-intensive to produce, and this energy would likely be produced by burning fossil fuels in Huntington Beach. This means that Poseidon’s desalinated water would lead to more greenhouse gas emissions and worsen climate change.
Second, desalination pollutes the ocean with wastewater and toxic waste. The discharges from a desalination plant harm ocean ecosystems by reducing oxygen levels and increasing the salinity of seawater. This kills fish, plankton that whales feed on, and other sea animals. Last year, the UN warned about the challenges we will face if desalination continues to increase and discharge brine into the ocean. People who visit Huntington Beach including Latinx beachgoers and fishermen would be negatively impacted by the proposed Poseidon desalination plant.
Third, desalination is unnecessary. Barrera falsely claimed that desalination is like an “insurance policy… to protect our water supply.” This isn’t true. In Orange County, we already have an ample freshwater ground supply that is recharged by a state-of-the-art recycling program. However, we are not maximizing water conservation and stormwater and rainwater capture. Imagine how much valuable water could be captured with rain barrels and green alleys and corridors! These water management solutions won’t harm our ocean or our climate.
Fourth, desalination is expensive. At a time when so many Orange County working families are struggling with the fallout from COVID-19, desalination would increase water bills. Barrera failed to mention a San Diego County Water Authority 2019 report about the desalination facility Poseidon has already built in Carlsbad, showing the costs are higher than average at $2,685 per acre-foot, and expected to increase by five percent more. Orange County working families will pay more than Poseidon says, too.
Finally, Latinxs in Orange County are going to listen to experts in our own community like Oak View ComUNIDAD, the Orange County Coastkeeper, and environmental justice organizations like Azul. In contrast, California LULAC lists corporate partner organizations such as Sea World and the Western States Petroleum Association. Mr. Barrera worked for Mercury Public Affairs, a global consulting firm which is lobbying for Poseidon, prior to LULAC.
We do agree with Mr. Barrera that climate change threatens the Latinx community. But with the coronavirus also harming our communities, we are more committed than ever to protecting our human rights to clean, affordable, and safe drinking water. That’s why we say “¡Fuera Poseidon!”
Adriana Maestas is Communications Manager of Azul.
Oscar Rodriguez is a Co-founder of Oak View ComUNIDAD
Espe Vielma is the Executive Director of the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water (EJCW)
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