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It’s time to ditch outdated solutions and tap into Orange County’s ingenuity 

By Keith Wehner (Own work) CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Orange County doesn’t do things by the book— it gives birth to new ideas that change the world. Millions of visitors a year visit Disneyland but probably overlook one of its sweetest features—water recycling.

Our tiny surf culture dominates the definition of cool around the globe, thanks to the OC business sense of brands like Quicksilver, Hurley, and Vans. Our steady stream of world famous craft beers and life-saving medical technologies is just business as usual in Orange County.

With this innovative drive, why is Orange County so interested in desalination? It’s outdated and inefficient—that’s not Orange County’s style.

We should water our landscapes like we do everything else in Orange County: smart, lean and brazenly innovative.

Conservation Doesn’t Have to Cost

When the governor asked us to conserve water, we lead the state by conserving more than was asked without spending a dime of taxpayer money or giving up an inch of our coveted Southern California way of life.

The Orange County Water District earned the international Stockholm Water Prize (like the Nobel Prize for water) with our groundwater replenishment system, the largest and most innovative of its kind in the world (and 35 – 75 percent cheaper than desalination).

Huntington Beach’s desalination’s strategy is expensive and archaic. Why would we throw a billion dollars, a ton of energy and fifty years of time for eight percent of our water supply? With conservation, we already saved three times that amount of water in the last nine months–for free. This immediately improved our water storage supplies and cost a billion dollars less than a new desalination plant.

Face the Facts About Desalination

Orange County Water District President Cathy Green wants to scare us with claims that our “aquifer is 85 percent depleted.” She’s misleading us. Her figures don’t reflect the overall volume of the aquifer, which is actually quite full; instead, they reflect a self-designated “normal working range” within the aquifer. In fact, the Water District recently turned down an opportunity to purchase more water for the aquifer from the Metropolitan Water District. This means we’re currently in that special Orange County time where we’re stuck between a problem and an opportunity with only enough room to fit bold, new world-changing ideas.

Desalination could be one of those ideas, which is why Orange County Coastkeeper was among the first to support the game-changing Dana Point desalination demonstration project. But since we’re not in a last-resort water supply position, Orange County has numerous options that are less expensive, less energy intensive and less harmful to our beloved coastline than Poseidon’s proposed plant in Huntington Beach.

Now is the Time

It’s time to turn our attention from the old-fashioned inefficient desalination industry as the answer to our drought crisis, and look to innovative, smart solutions from our Orange County business sector and trail-blazing community spirit.

Now is the time to plan for the second expansion of our history–making a ground water replenishment system.

Now is the time to learn from our neighbors in north, like Sonoma County Water Agency, which for more than 65 years has passed on imported water and serviced its 600,000 customers on rainwater capture alone.

Now is the time to think beyond outdated solutions of decades past and turn to what Orange County does best, give birth to new ideas that change the world for the better.