Surfrider is not opposed to responsible desalination. However, we believe the order in which water supply options are implemented is very important; specifically exhausting water conservation, stormwater capture and water recycling, before turning to desalination. It comes down to the fact that desalination requires a ton of energy, and water and energy are intrinsically linked. What do we mean by responsible desal you ask? We mean desal that avoids marine life impacts, offsets for its energy requirements and green house gas (GHG) emissions, with responsible brine disposal. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times summarizes many of these arguments well.
Instead of providing multiple benefits (like conservation, stormwater capture, and water recycling would), unfortunately the Carlsbad desalination plant as approved causes multiple impacts (marine life mortality, brine discharge, and more energy consumption and GHG generation than importing water from the Bay Delta to Southern California). Surfrider is currently working to improve regulations for desalination through the statewide desalination policy from the State Water Resources Control Board, which is expected early next year.
Unfortunately, the Carlsbad desalination plant is being built to rely on an ocean-water-intake that is currently being phased out of use for power plants. It seems like a huge step backwards for a new industry to step in and continue the destruction to our already threatened marine ecosystems.
For a summary of Surfrider's vision of holistic water management, be sure to check out our short film the Cycle of Insanity.