Press Release

Carlsbad Desalination Plant Opening: The Wrong Solution at the Wrong Time

December 10 2015

San Clemente, CA, December 10, 2015 – Since 2009, the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches, along with its San Diego Chapter, objected to the rationale for, and ultimately the process to establish the Carlsbad desalination plant, in California, by the developer, Poseidon Resources, Inc.  Days from this Carlsbad facility going online, Surfrider stresses that desalination is not the solution for drought-stricken California or other states in similar conditions.  Desalination plants not only pose significant risks to our marine habitats, but will have significant economic impacts.

Poseidon Resources Inc. built this $1 billion plant − the largest ever attempted in the U.S. − with taxpayer-backed bond financing at Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad. The plant will produce approximately 50 million gallons of drinking water per day.  However, the cost of the water produced by the plant will be dramatically higher than the County Water Authority currently pays for freshwater imported from Northern California and the Colorado River. All this will result in local water districts experiencing increased rates, which gets passed along to their customers.

“If you look to the examples of where desalination has worked successfully around the world, you will see that those nations worked diligently to reduce demand before turning to desalination. We have done the opposite here in San Diego, and now that we are seeing real progress with conservation due to the drought mandates, and the Carlsbad plant is coming online, we can see what a predicament this 30-year take-or-pay contract puts us in.  The order in which water supply options are implemented matters tremendously,” said Julia Chunn-Heer, Policy Manager for the Surfrider Foundation’s San Diego County Chapter.

Even if the Carlsbad plant performs flawlessly, there are significant problems with this approach. The Pacific is not a limitless resource; furthermore the staggering energy requirements and GHG emissions of this water supply option make it the worst option in light of climate change. Not to mention that rate increases have consequences, and poor planning could preclude environmentally and fiscally preferable options from moving forward.

Environmentalist agree that San Diego and Southern California need to develop local supplies of water, but the order in which that is pursued and the amount of water that is produced requires thoughtful planning. Otherwise, new problems are created to solve the old,  and the environment and our pocket books will feel the consequences. Desalination may be part of the solution eventually, but it needs to be sized and located appropriately. It should be the last tool in the tool box, not the first.

Coupled with Poseidon aggressively pursuing the installation of desalination plants in Huntington Beach and Camp Pendleton in California and other companies using Carlsbad as a replicable model, now is the time for communities to learn the environmental and fiscal implications of a desalination plant and opt for water conservation and reclamation.

Representatives of the local and statewide environmental community will be hosting a press conference at the Tamarack Parking Lot, 3951-3999 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad, CA 92008 at 12 pm on December 14 to discuss these and other details concerning the opening and what that means for our state.

About Surfrider Foundation

The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over 250,000 supporters, activists and members worldwide. Learn more at surfrider.org.