The Desalination Domino Effect

Brine discharged into our ocean will damage multiple facets of life in Huntington Beach

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 "Carlsbad desalination plant3" by Bovlb - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons 

In the midst of California’s historic drought, a conversation must happen about new sources of water. One proposed option is desalination – the process of removing salt from seawater making it safe to use and drink. The planned desalination plant in Orange County is the Poseidon Huntington Beach Desalination Project. While it may seem like a valid option in theory, realistically the Poseidon project comes with huge impacts to public recreation, the environment and the local economy.

Direct Effect on Marine Habitat Impacts Fishing

640px-Deepsea.jpeg
Deepsea" by Lsuff - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

The process of desalination removes ocean water and replaces it with a highly concentrated brine discharge. The brine contains twice the salinity level of local seawater, dramatically changing the water’s composition. Elevation in salinity results in displacement of fish species like halibut, croaker and striped bass. Recreational fishing will all but disappear along with the economic and recreational benefits that come with it.

Perceived Threat to Public Health Turns Away Beachgoers

Time has taught us that the public does not take well to a perceived public health threat. As people become increasingly aware of the brine and cleaning fluids offshore of the project site, locals and tourists alike are bound to avoid the area. We have seen a very similar phenomenon in the Salton Sea, which contains a similar salinity level to the brine discharge. The water in the Salton Sea poses no threat to human health, but it’s perceived as polluted, so the public avoids it.

Impacts on Local Tourism Economy

The decline of recreational fishing and beachgoers invites a profoundly negative impact on the local tourism economy. Annually, an estimated five million people visit Huntington Beach to participate in coastal recreation activities. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, when Huntington Beach is closed for a day, the local economy experiences a decrease in beachgoer spending of almost $28,000. Can you imagine what would happen to the local economy if beachgoers decrease year-round?

Additionally, recreational fisherman, whether local or visiting, contribute greatly to the local economy. A decrease in recreational fishing means a decrease in spending on transportation, equipment, goods and services. For many local businesses this take a huge chunk out of their revenue.

Practical Solutions Save Our Economy

Before desalination becomes our future water source, all other options need thorough consideration. Practical alternatives to desalination exist, such as groundwater replenishment and conservation. These cost-effective possibilities don’t pose a threat to the environment, recreation or the economy but produce the clean water our region needs.

To learn more about the impacts of desalination or to join us in advocating against the Poseidon project, click here.


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