Coastkeeper Says: Watch Out Orange County, San Diego's Desalination Plant Incurred Multiple Pollution Violations

Watchdog organization says Orange County Water District should learn from Carlsbad’s mistakes

ORANGE COUNTY – June 2, 2016 – At last night’s Orange County Water District meeting, Orange County Coastkeeper presented documentation that Poseidon Water’s Carlsbad-based desalination plant has incurred multiple water pollution violations since it began operation less than a year ago. Poseidon’s pollution violations in San Diego include discharge of toxic brine, discoloration of the ocean at the outfall and dumping contaminated water into storm drains. Coastkeeper also revealed that Poseidon has failed to acquire the greenhouse gas offsets required for its Coastal Commission Permit. Coastkeeper says this means Poseidon is not complying with the two main permits it needs to operate the Carlsbad Desalination Plant.

Residents and environmental organizations attended the meeting to oppose Poseidon’s proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant, arguing the plant is less efficient and more expensive than other options. News of the corporation’s illegal pollution in San Diego gave residents another reason to request that the Orange County Water District consider other water supply options.

“We were pleased to see that Orange County residents don’t want to make San Diego’s mistakes all over again. Residents understand that this desalination plant is bad for everyone,” says Orange County Coastkeeper Executive Director Garry Brown. “There are smarter water supply options, such as wastewater recycling and stormwater capture, that are more cost effective, use less energy and are better for the environment.”

Additionally, residents at the meeting voiced concern about the economics of a deal with Poseidon. Poseidon’s proposed contract with Orange County Water District, as well as its existing contract with San Diego, requires ratepayers to purchase desalinated water whether they need it or not. In San Diego ratepayers are forced to pay for Poseidon’s premium priced desalinated water and store it in a reservoir where it evaporates at a rate of nine percent per year.

“Orange County’s predicament could be even worse than San Diego,” says Brown. “Orange County Water District approved a study of a distribution plan to store all the water in the Orange County Basin. Due to the high levels of salt in desalinated water — this practice would degrade Orange County’s high quality groundwater.”

Coastkeeper believes Orange County should apply the strategic and innovative tactics it’s known for to the region’s water supply options. Conservation, wastewater recycling (expansion of Ground Water Replenishment System) and stormwater capture are better for the environment, use less energy and are cost effective.

For more information, read this story on the impacts of the Poseidon-Huntington Beach desalination plant or see this infographic on the true cost of desalination.


ORANGE COUNTY COASTKEEPER: Orange County Coastkeeper is a member of the International Waterkeeper Alliance, which has 236 different independent programs across 29 countries. Founded in 1999, the mission of Coastkeeper is to protect and promote sustainable water resources that are swimmable, drinkable, and fishable. Coastkeeper is a nonprofit clean water organization that serves as a proactive steward of our fresh- and saltwater ecosystems. We work collaboratively with diverse groups in the public and private sectors to achieve healthy, accessible, and sustainable water resources for the region. We implement innovative, effective programs in education, advocacy, restoration, research, enforcement, and conservation. For more information, visit or call 714-850-1965.