Breaking News
0
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your Investing.com experience. Save up to 40% More details

Desalination advances in California despite opponents pushing for alternatives

Stock MarketsJul 28, 2021 07:08AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
 
5/5 © Reuters. The Bolsa Chica wetlands are shown in Huntington Beach, California, U.S., June 24, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake 2/5

By Daniel Trotta

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (Reuters) - Environmentalists say desalination decimates ocean life, costs too much money and energy, and soon will be made obsolete by water recycling. But as Western states face an epic drought, regulators appear ready to approve a desalination plant in Huntington Beach, California.

After spending 22 years and $100 million navigating a thicket of state regulations and environmentalists' challenges, Poseidon Water is down to one major regulatory hurdle - the California Coastal Commission. The company feels confident enough to talk of breaking ground by the end of next year on the $1.4 billion plant that would produce some 50 million gallons of drinking water daily.

"The Pacific Ocean is the largest reservoir in the world," said Poseidon vice president Scott Maloni. "It's always full."

California's Coastal Commission is expected to vote on Poseidon's permit application before year's end. Other agencies also still need to sign off. But a key authority, a regional water board, approved a permit for the project in April on condition that the company increase its commitment to rehabilitate the nearby 1,449-acre (586-hectare) Bolsa Chica wetlands reserve, an important bird habitat, and build an artificial reef.

The Coastal Commission may require Poseidon, controlled by the infrastructure arm of Canada's Brookfield Asset Management, to provide additional mitigation at Bolsa Chica or elsewhere, said Tom Luster, a senior environmental scientist on the commission staff. The political appointees and locally elected officials from coastal districts on the commission could choose their own course.

California's water wars date at least to the late 19th century. This latest chapter shows grassroots movements can at least delay plans, if not halt them. A plant Poseidon has operated since 2015 down the coast in Carlsbad was approved locally before the state adopted regulations for desalination plants.

Poseidon's Carlsbad plant, sold to Aberdeen Standard Investments in 2019, produces 50 million gallons of drinking water daily, enough for 400,000 homes and meeting 10% of San Diego County's water demand. It is the Western hemisphere's largest desalination plant.

The Huntington Beach project would produce a similar amount, enough for 16% of the homes in the Orange County Water District, where 2.5 million people live.

Steve Sheldon, the Orange County Water District's board president, in 2018 voted in favor of a provisional deal to buy 56,000 acre-feet of water per year from Poseidon for at least 30 years.

He said he weighed the environmental arguments, which he called "fair comments."

"We have to balance that with our human need for water," Sheldon said.

While current drought conditions are particularly dramatic, California has seen extremely dry years for most of this century. Scientists say human-influenced climate change has exacerbated the situation.

MARINE LIFE DESTROYED

Largely because of the energy required, the desalinated water that Southern California plants sell to local water authorities is the most expensive alternative to water brought in from the Colorado River and Northern California.

The Carlsbad plant has added $5 to the monthly bill of the average consumer in San Diego County, Poseidon says. The Huntington Beach plant would add $3 to $6 per month, the Orange County Water District said.

Andrea Leon-Grossman, director of climate action for the ocean conservation group Azul, says better alternatives include conservation, repairing leaky pipes, capturing storm water runoff and committing to more recycled water.

At the Carlsbad plant, ocean water is run through pipes to remove the largest solids, then pumped to reverse osmosis filters to remove salt.

The intake kills tiny organisms such as larvae and plankton. Some fish and other creatures die upon being sucked in or from the force of the water flow. Both Poseidon plants are now required to add finer intake screens to protect more fish.

Poseidon's Maloni said that no more than .02% of the plankton at risk of being sucked in would be affected at Huntington Beach and that no threatened or endangered species are at risk.

Experts say more research is needed to determine how much sea life is destroyed by the Carlsbad plant, which, as Huntington Beach would do, uses intake pipes built for a retired power plant's cooling system.

A 2015 state environmental report by staff of the State Water Resources Control Board examined studies on 18 power plants taking in water for cooling.

The report found that on average from 2000 to 2005, 19.4 billion larvae were caught up at intakes and about 2.7 million fish, along with marine mammals and sea turtles, were killed by intake equipment.

"The reality is, we are impacting that environment for this generation and the generations to come," said Newsha Ajami, a hydrologist and director of Urban Water Policy with Stanford University's Water in the West research institute.

For every gallon of drinking water, desalination leaves behind another gallon of salty brine. Carlsbad mixes that with two parts of ocean water before discharge. Huntington Beach would pump brine out to sea with a diffuser.

The dense discharge sinks to the ocean floor, the state water board staff report said, exposing bottom-dwelling marine life to the brine and other potentially toxic materials.

The combined effects of intake and discharge in Huntington Beach will kill off the equivalent of 421 acres of ocean habitat, according to a Santa Ana Regional Water Control Board staff report.

Poseidon argues that California has the most stringent environmental regulations in the world, and its project would fail to get approved if it posed serious problems.

Desalination advances in California despite opponents pushing for alternatives
 

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at Investing.com’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
Post also to:
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Comments (1)
Alan Rice
Alan Rice Jul 28, 2021 1:32PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Another lame attempt to avoid COMMON SENSE SOLUTIONS to the permanent , ongoing, destruction of earth's biosphere by human infestation.
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's Investing.com's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
or
Sign up with Email