Surfrider Foundation is part of growing number of organizations and citizens opposed to the Poseidon-Huntington Beach proposed desalination facility.
We support the need to reduce Orange County’s dependence on imported water. But the Poseidon project is not the answer.
What is Ocean Desalination?
Ocean desalination is a process of pumping seawater out of the ocean and into a large factory built on the coast. Then that water is treated by a process called “reverse osmosis” – a technology that removes the salts and other minerals from seawater, turning it into one half freshwater and one half concentrated “brine” that is then discharged back into the ocean. On the surface, this all sounds good. BUT….
We Oppose this Project. WHY?
It kills marine life and pollutes marine habitat.
First, the intake of seawater for these projects also sucks in and kills marine life. There are ways to minimize, or completely eliminate, this marine life mortality from the intake. But Poseidon doesn’t propose to use these superior intake technologies. In fact, they intend to continue using the intake structures the AES power plant is abandoning (in order to protect marine life). IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE THAT THE POWER PLANT IS GOING TO PROTECT MARINE LIFE BY ELIMINATING THEIR SEAWATR INTAKE, ONLY TO HAVE POSEIDON STEP IN AND KILL WHAT WAS JUST SAVED!
Second, the discharge of brine can displace marine life that naturally lives near the discharge point. And if it’s not properly discharged through technology for rapid dilution – it can accumulate on the sea floor and over time destroy the seafloor habitat. Again, Poseidon refuses to use what are called “spray brine diffusers” for rapid dilution of the brine, putting our precious marine life and habitat at risk. SPRAY BRINE DIFFUSERS ARE READILY AVAILABLE AND COMMON ON DESALINATION FACILITIES WORLDWIDE. IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE TO NOT REQUIRE THE BEST DISCHARGE TECHNOLOGY FOR THIS PLANT – WHEN IT’S COMMON PRACTICE AROUND THE WORLD.
Third, this facility would use enormous amounts of energy – which drives up the price now, and will continue driving prices up as electricity rates climb. WE OPPOSE A PROJECT THAT ADDS ENERGY DEMAND TO OUR WATER SUPPLY, DRIVING UP THE PRICE FOR ELECTRICITY AND FOR WATER. WE NEED TO REDUCE ENERGY INTENSIVE WATR PROJECTS!!!
Finally, it cost more than three times alternatives for a sustainable and reliable water supply well into the future – even given the projected population growth. WE WANT OUR TAXES AND WATER BILLS USED FOR THE CHEPAEST AND BEST OPTIONS FIRST!!!
We don’t need it!!
It’s the most expensive option for our local water supply – and the other alternatives are CHEAPER — with multiple benefits to the economy and our coast and ocean.
PREFERRED ALTERNATIVES TO POSEIDON-HUNTINGTON DESAL
The answer to making Orange County independent of imported water, and eliminating the need for an expensive ocean desalination facility, is using what we have more efficiently and eliminating waste from how we manage our water. It may take a little time, but if we reform our water management we can save money, reduce pollution of our coast & ocean, restore our waterways and habitat for wildlife, and start eliminating the need for engineered flood control projects.
We’ve all heard about conserving water with low-flush toilets, efficient showerheads and water saving utilities (dishwashers, clothes washers, etc). But more than half the residential water we use is outdoors – watering our lawns.
WE CAN REDUCE, OR ALMOST ELIMINATE, RESIDENTIAL IRRIGATION DEMAND THROUGH LANDSCAPING DESIGNS, CLIMATE-ADAPTED PLANTS AND SIMPLE CHANGES TO CAPTURE RAINWATER – ELIMINATING POLLUTION, CREATING MICRO-HABITAT, AND BEAUTIFYING OUR HOMES AND NEIGHBORHOODS. TO LEARN HOW, SEE SURFRIDER’S “OCEAN FRIENDLY GARDENS” PROGRAM AT:
ALSO, CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL WATER AGENCY TO ASK ABOUT FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE TO RETROFIT YOUR LANDSCAPE – AND CONTACT YOUR LOCAL SURFRIDER CHAPTER FOR HELP.
Our urban communities were designed for our convenience and safety – from our roofs and driveways, to our streets, and finally paving our rivers to protect us against floods. But all this impervious surface has interfered with natural systems that allowed rainwater to soak into the ground and re-charge our groundwater supplies, keep our rivers flowing clean, reduce pollution, allow sediment to move from our watersheds to replenish sand on our beaches, and fend off seawater that threatens to infiltrate our coastal groundwater – making it unusable.
But we can restore these natural watershed processes and maintain all the conveniences and safety of our current urban planning.
First, you can start at home with an Ocean Friendly Garden. And we should all encourage our water agencies to financially support these conservation and rainwater harvesting projects because it will help them balance our demand for potable water with what is available – and save ratepayer money.
Second, we should encourage our local government to re-design our streets and highways with designs called “green streets.” These simple designs divert rainwater from the gutters into rainwater capturing landscapes in neighborhood and downtown parkways. Even in parts of the country where water supply is not a concern, like Portland, Oregon, local government is investing in “green streets” to eliminate polluted runoff from reaching their rivers and ocean. You can search the internet and find plenty of examples like those at:
And we can start restoring, and re-creating, a county-wide network of wetlands to capture rainwater to recharge our groundwater, reduce pollution, create essential habitat and reduce the threat of flooding. We have a great example of “constructed wetlands” and wetlands restoration right in our backyard – and we can expand on these efforts. For example, see:
In combination, these conservation and restoration projects will provide multiple benefits to our quality of life, environmental protection, and local water supply reliability. And while there will be an initial cost, instead of investing the estimated $900 million for building the Poseidon desalination plant, these projects will result in more water, and eliminate the dramatic expense of operating an extremely energy demanding facility indefinitely because we allow nature to do our work for us. And they are not only cheaper for water supply, they help resolve pollution, habitat loss, and other benefits that cost money beyond the narrow benefit of ensuring reliable and cheaper water supply. In other words, we get way more “bang for the buck.”
Orange County is recognized world-wide for our wastewater recycling and Groundwater Replenishment System. These programs and projects were originally mandated by government order to reduce pollution from outdated sewage treatment – and the resulting ocean pollution from the discharge. But after recognizing the benefit to our water supply, the program is being expanded because of its multi-benefits to our environment and the relatively cheap cost for dramatically improving our potable water supply.
To learn more about these programs, see:
(note this review points out: “[The Groundwater Replenishment System] provides an uninterruptible source of water for seawater intrusion protection and groundwater recharge. Uses less than half the energy required to transport water from Northern to Southern California. Designed to be expanded to increase production capacity to help meet future water needs. Uses one-third the energy required to desalinate seawater.”)
WE SHOULD ENCOURAGE EVEN GREATER EXPANSION OF THE GROUNDWATER REPLANISHMENT SYSTEM BECAUSE IT IS CLEARLY A SUPERIOR ALTERNATIVE TO POSEIDON’S OCEAN DESALINATION PROPOSAL.
Poseidon Resources would have you believe that we cannot ensure a safe and reliable supply of freshwater for Orange County without building their 900 million dollar facility (not to mention the extreme and ever-increasing costs to operate the plant. They’ll tell you it really doesn’t harm marine life and habitat. They’ll create some “fuzzy math” to try and convince you it won’t cost ratepayers much more than what you currently pay.
But Poseidon Resources Inc is actually just a “venture capital” investment group with no duty to the public. They are in the business of lobbying our public agencies and making political contributions to our elected officials in an effort to make a profit on selling water we do not need. TELL YOUR CITY COUNCIL AND LOCAL PUBLIC WATR AGENCIES WE DEMAND THEY INVEST IN THE CHEAPER ALTERNATIVES WITH MULTIPLE BENEFITS FIRST!!