Huntington Beach Desalination
The Fact is that the Poseidon Desalination plant would kill marine life, pollute our water and cost a fortune. Most importantly we don’t need it. We are disappointed that the Santa Ana Regional Water Control Board is considering permitting a Wall Street water corporation Poseidon’s proposed desalination plant in Huntington Beach. This billion-dollar boondoggle would be too expensive for Orange County families, too destructive to our ocean, too harmful for our climate, and we don’t need it! Orange County communities will continue to demand clean water solutions that cost less and are safe for our climate, ocean and beaches.
Orange County has cheaper, cleaner water options.
- We need cleaner, safer, and local solutions like water recycling, increased conservation, and cleaning up contaminated groundwater.
- Conservation and water-recycling is the best alternative to wasteful water projects like Poseidon. Orange County’s water recycling facility already produces twice the capacity of Poseidon’s proposed plant for a fraction of the cost; it is being expanded now.
- By expanding Orange County’s water recycling and investing in new facilities like the new one in Carson, near South LA, there is no need for Poseidon.
- Orange County still discharges 100 million gallons of water into the ocean, every day! More could be done to reuse and clean this water.
- Water conservation and efficiency measures like fixing leaky pipes and capturing rainwater and stormwater can save money and energy—and create local jobs.
- OC can rely on more cost-effective solutions, including its large aquifer, to meet long-term water needs.
Learn the facts about ocean desalination.
2020 will be a decisive year for the Poseidon Huntington Beach Desalination Project and we will need your help to win. You can start by joining our mailing list. We will make sure you get important updates and all the support you need to make your voice heard in the decision process.
Desalination in California
Ocean desalination is one of the options we need to consider, but it is not as simple as it may appear. There are good reasons why there is only one large ocean desalination facility in California. Ocean desalination has huge environmental impacts along with high costs (5x the cost of our groundwater) and other financial risks. Orange County is where the future of desalination in California is being decided.
Three agencies are making decisions on the Poseidon Huntington Beach Desalination Project this year that affect both the environment and your finances for decades to come.
You can make a difference. Your actions in 2019 will help decide the fate of our ocean and quality of life. Below we describe the details of what is going on and how you can help beginning with the most local and urgent activities of the project.
Poseidon Review Process
The Poseidon Huntington Beach desalination plant must follow the guidelines of the California statewide desalination policy that went into effect in 2016. This policy requires a rigorous review to ensure that desalination plants are placed where they are needed and use the best technology. Poseidon’s Huntington Beach project is the first test of this policy and its review will set the precedent for desalination plants in California. It is critical that Poseidon is not able to corrupt this process by using loopholes and political pressure.
In 2019-2020 Poseidon must pass review by two state agencies, Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board Commission and the California Coastal Commission. If the project gets past these reviews then the Orange County Water District will make a decision whether to buy the water. This entire process could be completed by the end of 2020. Do not let the length of this process fool you. Poseidon is pushing hard to move it as quickly as possible and force you to buy their expensive and environmentally damaging water.
Who’s Involved & Background
The State Lands Commission approved a Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (SEIR) and renewed a lease for an offshore intake and outfall for the Poseidon Project in October 2017. The SEIR was clearly inadequate so Orange County Coastkeeper and others filed a lawsuit against the State Lands Commission contending that a more complete environmental review is required.
In February 2016, the State Water Resources Control Board policy for developing Ocean Desalination plants in California went into effect. The policy is intended to address adverse effects ocean desalination plants can have on water quality, aquatic life and other “beneficial uses” of California’s ocean waters. Specifically, the policy addresses seawater intakes and brine discharges that are the major threat to marine resources.
Unfortunately, the policy has several loopholes that can be exploited by desalination developers to bypass the goal of protecting marine resources. You can find the policy and all the other information here.
In 2019, the Water Board requested new information from Poseidon regarding potential alternate project sites, design, technology, and mitigation. A draft of Poseidon’s new permit was released in November 2019 and the Water Board held public workshops on the Poseidon project on December 6, 2019 and May 15 2020 A final hearing by the Regional Board on the permit is on July 30,31 and August 7 of 2020
Since Poseidon’s embarrassing setback at the California Coastal Commission in November 2013 they have increased their efforts to move the project forward with as little change as possible to its obsolete design.
At the 2013 hearing in Newport Beach, the Commission berated Poseidon for their lack of a feasibility study for subsurface intakes and lack of a customer to show a clear need for the water. You can see the California Coastal Commission staff report for the hearing here. Poseidon withdrew their application, and the Commission requested that they work with their staff to address their concerns.
Since then Poseidon worked with California Coastal Commission staff in 2014 to create an Independent Scientific Advisory Panel (ISTAP) to study the feasibility of using subsurface intakes for the Huntington Beach Project. The ISTAP issued two reports, Together these reports show that it is possible, but costly, to use subsurface intakes for the Poseidon project. Poseidon has now reapplied for a permit from the Coastal Commission but must first go through review by the Santa Ana Regional Water Board.
In 2016 the Orange County Water District (OCWD) conducted a series of three public workshops to decide how to distribute Poseidons water. All but one of the options considered included putting Poseidon water into the ground and pumping it back out at considerable cost. The workshops made it clear that distributing the amount of water Poseidon proposes to produce will be a significant engineering challenge with high costs.
In March of 2017 OCWD announced that it has stopped work on the Environmental Impact Report for the distribution system until Poseidon completes its review by state agencies. This is another sign that this bad project is not right for Orange County. In a letter to the State Lands Commission in October 2017 OCWD stated their official position that they do not know how they would use or distribute water from the Poseidon Project.
In July 2018 OCWD approved a revised Term Sheet with Poseidon. This is not an agreement to purchase any water, although both OCWD and Poseidon misrepresent that fact. The provisions of the Term Sheet include that OCWD was to identify customers and a distribution system for Poseidon’s water by December 2018, that still has not happened.
After being turned down by our cities and regional water retailer, Poseidon identified the Orange County Water District (Orange County Water District, manager of our groundwater) as their last resort for their project. With help from over a hundred thousand dollars in political donations, the Orange County Water District board is now seriously considering entering into a contract with Poseidon to purchase desalinated water. The fact that they are considering pumping the desalinated water into the ground shows that local cities are not willing to take the water from this flawed project.
In July 2018 the Orange County Water District Board decided to accept Poseidon’s vague terms for negotiating a potential Water Purchase Agreement. This was done in oblivious of the fact that they have not identified customers or a distribution plan for Poseidon’s water.
This is a bad idea for several reasons. First of all, there is no need for Poseidon’s water. As detailed in a 2018 study by the Municipal Water District of Orange County, the Orange County Water District can get through potential water shortages through conservation and other more cost-effective water supply options. The study also ranked Poseidon last in the new water options for Orange County.
We can see an example of what to expect from Poseidon’s Carlsbad plant. After three years of operation, the plant only runs at 80% capacity. This has resulted in Poseidon paying over $10 million in penalties for the non-delivery of water. The Carlsbad plant also had 82 violations for its water quality permit. This is not the type of operation we need in Orange County.
The primary problems include the design of the plant and the cost of the water. The proposed plant will impact marine life from Palos Verdes to Dana Point, pollute the ocean in Huntington Beach and cost five times what we are currently paying for groundwater, for water we dont need. There are many better and cheaper alternatives including reducing water use for landscaping, increasing local water capture and recycling. Unfortunately, some of the Orange County Water District Board members are blinded by politics rather then focusing on the facts of the project.
They need to hear from you that environmentally friendly and less costly options need to be completed before even thinking about ocean desalination.
Contact your Orange County Water Board Members:
Michael R. Markus, PE
Orange County Water District
18700 Ward Street
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
[email protected] – Dina Nguyen
[email protected] – Denis R. Bilodeau
[email protected] – Roger C. Yoh
[email protected] – Tri Ta
[email protected] – Stephen R. Sheldon
[email protected] – Cathy Green,
[email protected] – Kelly Rowe
[email protected] – Vicente Sarmiento
[email protected] – Jordan Brandman
[email protected] – Ahmad Zahra
Additional Information and Attachments
- Municipal Water District of Orange County Water Reliability Study
- OCWD Poseidon Term Sheet
- Desal infographic