pcloudy.png
Sunday July 3rd, 2022 2:40PM

Amid drought, California desalination project at crossroads

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (AP) — For more than two decades, California's Orange County has debated whether to build a seaside plant to convert the Pacific Ocean's salt water into drinking water in hopes of buffering against droughts like the one now gripping the nation's most populous state.

Now, the $1.4 billion proposal by Poseidon Water faces a critical review Thursday by the California Coastal Commission, which is tasked with protecting California's scenic shores.

Poseidon and its supporters, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, contend the Huntington Beach plant will produce 50 million gallons of water a day that are crucial to help weather cutbacks on state and federal water supplies following years of drought. Newsom, a Democrat, recently told the Bay Area News Group editorial board that a denial would be a “big setback” and “we need more tools in the damn tool kit” to address drought.

But environmental groups and the Coastal Commission's staff, which reviewed the plan, oppose it. They argue it will damage marine life by killing tiny organisms that form the base of the ocean's food web. They also say it's vulnerable to flooding and other hazards. And some in the water industry say the cost of desalinated water is too high and isn't needed in an area with access to cheaper sources.

“The ocean is not our reservoir. We don't own its contents,” said Susan Jordan, executive director of the California Coastal Protection Network and member of the Stop Poseidon coalition. “It belongs to the planet, but they're using it as their personal piggybank and it is not a piggybank. It needs to be protected.”

California has spent most of the last 15 years in drought conditions. Its normal wet season that runs from late fall to the end of winter was especially dry this year and as a result 95% of the state is classified as in severe drought.

Newsom last summer urged residents to cut consumption by 15%, but since then water usage has dropped by only about 3%. Some areas have begun instituting generally mild restrictions, in most cases limiting how many days lawns can be watered. More stringent restrictions are likely later in the year.

Much of California's water comes from melting snow and with a far below normal snowpack, state officials have told water agencies they will receive only 5% of what they've requested from state water supplies beyond what's needed for critical activities like drinking and bathing.

The idea of desalination has been debated for decades in Huntington Beach, a coastal community southeast of Los Angeles known as “Surf City USA” that relies on its sands and waves for tourism. These days, discussion of the project has also centered around the impact of climate change on regional water supplies and on sea level rise in the low-lying coastal area where the plant would be built.

Desalination takes ocean water and removes salt and other elements to make it drinkable. Those elements are discharged back into the sea, while the water can be channeled directly to consumers or used to replenish a groundwater basin. The country's largest seawater desalination plant is already operating in nearby San Diego County, and there are also coastal plants in Florida.

More than two decades ago, Poseidon proposed building two desalination plants — the one in San Diego County, and one in Huntington Beach. The San Diego County plant was approved and built, and desalinated water now accounts for 10% of San Diego County Water District 's water supplies.

But the Huntington Beach project has faced numerous delays. In 2013, the Coastal Commission voiced concerns that the proposed use of intake structures to quickly draw in large volumes of water from the ocean would damage marine life. Poseidon, which is owned by Brookfield Infrastructure Partners, conducted additional studies and resubmitted the plan with a proposal to mitigate marine damage through restoration of nearby wetlands.

Thursday's commission hearing is seen by the project's supporters and opponents as do or die. Last month, staff members for the panel issued a 200-page report opposing the project, arguing it fails to adhere to marine life protection policies and policies aimed at minimizing hazards from tsunamis and rising sea levels.

Orange County has an ample groundwater basin and recycles wastewater, making the region less dependent on imported water than San Diego. The Orange County Water District, which has said it intends to buy Poseidon’s water, manages the basin that helps meet about 75% of the water demand in the heavily populated northern and central areas of the county that are home to 2.5 million people.

Poseidon contends the county would still benefit by locking in a drought-proof source but critics argue the area can do without it and would be better served economically and environmentally by focusing more on recycling, noting an expansion of the county's renowned wastewater recycling program is already under way.

“It's diversifying our supply as an insurance policy,” said Jessica Jones, Poseidon's communications director. She said the benefits would stretch beyond coastal California to inland communities and other states that could gain increased access to imported water supplies once Orange County can count on desalinated water.

Steve Sheldon, the water district's president, said he was confident other water agencies also would be interested in the water once it was a sure thing. Desalinated water is more expensive now, but Sheldon said he expects the cost of imported water to also rise over time.

“Water reserves are dwindling low,” Sheldon said. “This plant can be built within four years and I know of no other project that can come online in at least a decade.”

But Paul Cook, general manager of the Irvine Ranch Water District — one of Orange County's water retailers — said he doesn't see a need for the water in a county that has ample and diverse water sources of its own. He said he doesn't want to buy pricey and unnecessary desalinated water for his customers, driving up household water bills.

“It might work in Abu Dhabi or Israel, but we're not them," he said of desalination. “We have our own needs; we have our own resources.”

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Utilities
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
New Mexico wildfire grows; California fire destroys mansions
More people in northern New Mexico are being warned they might have to flee as a wildfire heads toward mountain resort towns
1:21AM ( 9 minutes ago )
Amid drought, California desalination project at crossroads
For more than two decades, California’s Orange County has debated whether to build a seaside plant to convert ocean water into drinking water in the hopes of buffering against ever-drier weather and drought
1:11AM ( 18 minutes ago )
Execution ends Arizona 8-year hiatus with the death penalty
Arizona’s nearly eight-year hiatus in using the death penalty has ended with the execution of Clarence Davis for the killing of a college student 44 years ago
1:06AM ( 24 minutes ago )
U.S. News
Passengers injured as plane leaves runway in western China
Several people were injured when a Chinese passenger jet left the runway upon takeoff and caught fire in western China
1:03AM ( 26 minutes ago )
China fights economic slump, sticks to costly 'zero COVID'
China’s leaders are struggling to reverse a deepening economic slump without giving up a “zero-COVID” strategy that shut down Shanghai and other cities
12:52AM ( 38 minutes ago )
North Korea confirms 1st COVID outbreak, Kim orders lockdown
North Korea imposed a nationwide lockdown Thursday to control its first acknowledged COVID-19 outbreak of the pandemic
12:37AM ( 52 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Creeping COVID-19 cases result in few schools mask mandates
U.S. coronavirus cases are up, leading a smattering of school districts, especially in the Northeast, to bring back mask recommendations and requirements
11:46PM ( 1 hour ago )
Holiday stops Celtics' last 2 plays, Bucks take 3-2 lead
Bobby Portis made a putback off Giannis Antetokounmpo’s missed free throw with 15 seconds left, Jrue Holiday snuffed Marcus Smart on Boston’s final two possessions and the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Celtics 110-107 on Wednesday night to take a 3-2 series lead
11:26PM ( 2 hours ago )
Biden calls to congratulate presumptive Philippine president
President Joe Biden has called Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to congratulate him on his apparent landslide victory in the Philippine presidential election
11:21PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP National News
Lawyers: Nearly $1B tentative settlement in condo collapse
Lawyers representing families of victims and survivors of the condominium collapse in Surfside, Florida, last June have told a judge that they've reached a nearly $1 billion tentative settlement
9:54PM ( 3 hours ago )
Massive New Mexico wildfire leaps ahead with flying embers
More people in northern New Mexico are being warned they might have to flee as the largest wildfire burning in the United States heads toward mountain resort towns
9:34PM ( 3 hours ago )
Trump-backed US Rep. Alex Mooney wins W.Va. GOP primary
Congressman Alex Mooney has won the Republican nomination for one of West Virginia’s two seats in the U.S. House
9:18PM ( 4 hours ago )
Top U.S. News short headlines
Giannis jokes (?) about taking time off for Greek freakout
The Milwaukee Bucks are still alive in the NBA playoffs, but star Giannis Antetokounmpo is already joking about his plans for next year
11:38PM ( 1 hour ago )
Chytil scores in 3rd, Rangers beat Penguins 5-3 in Game 5
Filip Chytil scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period and the New York Rangers staved off elimination with a 5-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series
11:30PM ( 1 hour ago )
Beyond Meat shares tumble on disappointing Q1
Plant-based meat company Beyond Meat reported lower-than-expected revenue in the first quarter as it slashed prices and demand from restaurants fell
10:59PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Business
Coinbase loses half its value in a week as crypto slumps
Cryptocurrency trading platform Coinbase has lost half its value in the past week
6:56PM ( 6 hours ago )
Beyond Meat shares tumble on lower-than-expected Q1 sales
Plant-based meat company Beyond Meat reported lower-than-expected sales in the first quarter as it slashed prices and demand from restaurants fell
5:05PM ( 8 hours ago )
Google gets more multilingual, but will it get the nuance?
About 10 million people speak Quechua, but trying to automatically translate emails and text messages into the lingua franca of the Inca Empire was nearly impossible before Google introduced it into its digital translation service Wednesday
3:42PM ( 9 hours ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
Senate confirms Black economist to Federal Reserve Board
The Senate has confirmed economist Phillip Jefferson to the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors
7:35PM ( 5 hours ago )
Raimondo: Inquiry on solar imports follows the law
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo pushed back forcefully Wednesday against critics — including some within the Biden administration — who say a government investigation of solar imports from Southeast Asia is hindering President Joe Biden’s ambitious climate goals
6:05PM ( 7 hours ago )
Battery-powered Greek island bets on green future
The remote Greek island of Tilos has pioneered a recycling plant that could act as a blueprint for other islands — including popular holiday destinations — that struggle with waste disposal
5:47PM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
Live updates | Pro-Russian protesters rally in Bulgaria
A pro-Russian nationalist party staged a protest rally in front of the parliament building in Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, on Wednesday, calling for the government to resign and accusing it of failing to tackle the economic crisis
2:58PM ( 10 hours ago )
Live updates | Italy’s premier pushes for talks to end war
Italy’s premier said Wednesday that Ukraine’s leaders must start shaping their terms for an acceptable peace deal, especially in light of Russia’s surprising failure to win its war outright
1:51PM ( 11 hours ago )
Live updates | Germany to train Ukraine on artillery system
The German army says it has begun training Ukrainian soldiers to use a powerful artillery system that Germany and the Netherlands plan to supply to Ukraine
1:08PM ( 12 hours ago )
AP Business - Utilities
New Mexico wildfire grows; California fire destroys mansions
More people in northern New Mexico are being warned they might have to flee as a wildfire heads toward mountain resort towns
1:21AM ( 9 minutes ago )
Execution ends Arizona 8-year hiatus with the death penalty
Arizona’s nearly eight-year hiatus in using the death penalty has ended with the execution of Clarence Davis for the killing of a college student 44 years ago
1:06AM ( 24 minutes ago )
Massive New Mexico wildfire grows, but Taos safe for now
More people in northern New Mexico are being warned they might have to flee as the largest wildfire burning in the United States heads toward mountain resort towns
12:32AM ( 58 minutes ago )
Crypto comes to Washington. Will the millions buy influence?
Cryptocurrency tycoons are emerging as the new power players in American politics
12:13AM ( 1 hour ago )
Army poised to revamp Alaska forces to prep for Arctic fight
U.S. Army leaders say they are poised to revamp forces in Alaska to better prepare for future cold-weather conflicts
12:10AM ( 1 hour ago )