In Huntington Beach, Poseidon Resources – owned by global developer Brookfield Infrastructure Partners (profiled here in Forbes) – is proposing a billion dollar desalination plant that would produce 50 million gallons of water per day, at a cost twice that of imported water and four times higher than stormwater capture. Poseidon has spent over $1.6 million lobbying for the project, and still does not have a buyer for the water. There are six major problems with Poseidon’s proposal:
1. We don’t need the water
- Orange County’s most recent water plan, published May 2016, indicates the County can meet its water needs through 2040 without the plant. And Orange County has a range of less expensive, more sustainable options for developing new water supplies.
- According to the Pacific Institute, water conservation and efficiency improvements − like those called for in the state’s new water plan − could reduce water use by a third.
2. It’s a bad deal for consumers
- The billion-dollar plant would increase water bills for hard-working families to line the pockets of Poseidon and its parent company Brookfield Infrastructure Partners.
- Poseidon wants Orange County to sign a 50-year ‘take or pay’ contract that commits ratepayers to buying the county’s most expensive water and guarantees returns for Poseidon.
- Orange County has firsthand experience with the high cost of public-private partnerships that put corporate profits above public benefit.
3. It would undermine California’s climate goals
- Desalination is the most energy intensive way to produce fresh water, using three times more energy than water recycling.
- The proposed location is vulnerable to floods from storms and rising seas.
4. We have smarter water supply options
- Orange County’s state-of-the-art water recycling facility produces twice the capacity of Poseidon’s proposed plant for a fraction of the cost; it is being expanded now.
- Orange County still discharges about 100 million gallons of water into the ocean every day, indicating that there are additional reuse opportunities.
5. It will harm valuable ocean fisheries without reducing stress on freshwater systems
- Outdated intake pipes will suck up tons of plankton, eggs, fish and shellfish, damaging California’s globally significant marine ecosystems.
- Chemical-laden brine will pollute the water near nine marine protected areas.
- Despite claims by Poseidon’s lobbyists, seawater desalination will not reduce stress on the Bay Delta or other freshwater systems.
6. Poseidon is a bad actor
- Poseidon’s Carlsbad plant has failed to deliver a fifth of the water promised to San Diego County Water Authority, and racked up more than a dozen water quality violations during its first year of operations.
- The proposed Huntington Beach plant does not meet state rules designed to reduce environmental impacts, and Poseidon has resisted the push to modernize and comply.