In November 2013, the California Coastal Commission will consider Poseidon Resources’ proposal to build an ocean desalination facility in Huntington Beach. Poseidon’s Huntington Beach project proposal will create tremendous economic and environmental adverse impacts.
Ocean desalination is the process of removing salt and other impurities from seawater to produce fresh water. There are a number of desalination technologies, and if it is not done properly, the seawater intake process can unnecessarily kill marine life. Desalination also produces a highly concentrated brine discharge that degrades water quality and marine life habitat if not properly diluted.
In addition, desalination is the most energy-intensive and expensive water supply option in California. A great amount of energy is required to break the chemical bonds in saltwater. Desalination facilities increase greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to sea level rise and ocean acidification.
There are numerous ocean desalination facilities being proposed in California, all in various stages of planning or permitting. Many of the proposed facilities have not been designed to minimize degradation to marine habitats and water quality, nor are the proposals being thoroughly evaluated by any government agency for their cumulative impacts statewide. The California State Water Resources Control Board is currently in the process of collecting scientific data on the adverse impacts of ocean desalination, and how best to minimize those impacts. But some proposals are moving forward without having adopted the recommendations of the science community – Poseidon’s project proposal is the worst offender.
Perhaps worse, none of the proposals have been adequately compared to less costly and preferable water supply solutions. Economically and environmentally sound alternatives like wastewater recycling, improved stormwater management and harvesting, and multi-benefit conservation efforts like Surfrider Foundation’s “Ocean Friendly Gardens” program should be fully implemented prior to turning to ocean desalination.
In fact, local water supply agencies are losing interest in the project because of the economic impact it would have on their customers. Adopting the most expensive water supply option will undermine the ability of these agencies to fund preferable options that would restore and protect our coast and ocean.
Poseidon Resources, a private venture capital firm, is seeking approval from the California Coastal Commission in November for their proposed desalination facility. The environmental community and local citizen groups oppose this project because it does not meet recommendations by the science community to minimize threats to marine life and address energy implications. Approving the Poseidon facility would set the worst possible standard for future ocean desalination proposals statewide.