- Title: Desalination advances in California, despite opponents pushing for alternatives
- Date: 28th July 2021
- Summary: CARLSBAD, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (JUNE 22, 2021) (REUTERS) VARIOUS DRONE SHOTS OF THE CLAUDE "BUD" LEWIS CARLSBAD DESALINATION PLANT AND THE NEARBY BEACH (MUTE) VARIOUS OF PIPES AT DESALINATION PLANT LABELED WITH 'FLUSHING WATER' AND 'SEA WATER SUPPLY' WATER GOING THROUGH TUBES NEXT TO PIPE LABELED 'BRINE OUTFALL' SCOTT MALONI, VICE PRESIDENT OF POSEIDON WATER AND PROJECT MANAGER FOR HUNTINGTON BEACH PLANT, WALKING (SOUNDBITE) (English) SCOTT MALONI, VICE PRESIDENT OF POSEIDON WATER AND PROJECT MANAGER FOR HUNTINGTON BEACH PLANT SAYING: "The impacts from the intake of seawater for the purposes of desalination is the entrainment of microscopic organisms. In the case of Huntington Beach, the total quantity of impact would be no more than 0.02 percent of the plankton at risk of being entrained. There's no threatened or endangered species that are at risk, and the mitigation that's in place will ensure that the project will be a net environmental benefit, by producing more habitat that will be impacted by the operation of the facility." HUNTINGTON BEACH, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (JUNE 24, 2021)(REUTERS) SIGN READING (English): 'BOLSA CHICA WETLANDS WILDLIFE HABITAT AREA, ENJOY FROM A DISTANCE' VARIOUS OF BIRD IN WETLANDS AREA VARIOUS OF MAN LOOKING THROUGH BINOCULARS AT BIRDS BIRDS RECENTLY CONSTRUCTED POWER PLANT NEAR SITE OF PROPOSED DESALINATION PLANT WATER ANDREA LEON-GROSSMAN, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST, AGAINST THE PLANT, WALKING IN MARSH AREA (SOUNDBITE) (English) ANDREA LEON-GROSSMAN, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST, AGAINST THE PLANT, SAYING: "It's great to be water independent, and we should be striving for that. But we should be doing it in a responsible way. And desalinated water is not the way to go. Again, this is the most expensive way to source water, it's the most energy-intensive way to do it. And the way it decimates the ocean, both by the intake and by how we're dumping brine back into the ocean, is really, it should be the last resort, not the first way for sourcing water." VARIOUS OF POWER PLANT, BEHIND WHICH THE PROPOSED DESALINATION PLANT WILL BE BUILT, IF APPROVED STANFORD, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (JUNE 29, 2021) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) NEWSHA AJAMI, DIRECTOR OF URBAN WATER POLICY WITH STANFORD UNIVERSITY'S WATER IN THE WEST, SAYING: "So you're taking water out of the environment, only half of it is usable or becomes water that can be drinkable, usable, and the other half is basically wasted and put back the environment in a different way or in a lower quality. So that's problematic." CARLSBAD, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (JUNE 22, 2021) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF WORKERS TESTING WATER AT CLAUDE "BUD" LEWIS CARLSBAD DESALINATION PLANT STANFORD, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (JUNE 29, 2021) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) NEWSHA AJAMI, DIRECTOR OF URBAN WATER POLICY WITH STANFORD UNIVERSITY'S WATER IN THE WEST, SAYING: "The reality is, as you're impacting the marine environment that we depend on in so many different ways, right, for our food, or our recreation, we are impacting that environment for this generation and the generations to come." CARLSBAD, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (JUNE 25, 2021)(REUTERS) DESALINATED WATER BEING POURED INTO A GLASS WORKER DRINKING GLASS OF DESALINATED WATER
- Embargoed: 11th August 2021 15:10
- Keywords: California desalination drought plant
- Location: CARLSBAD, HUNTINGTON BEACH AND STANFORD, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES
- City: CARLSBAD, HUNTINGTON BEACH AND STANFORD, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES
- Country: USA
- Topics: Droughts,Disaster/Accidents,United States
- Reuters ID: LVA001ENMWH1J
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Environmentalists say desalination decimates ocean life, costs too much money and energy and soon will be made obsolete by water recycling. But as Western states face an epic drought, regulators appear ready to approve a desalination plant in Huntington Beach, California.
After spending 22 years and $100 million navigating a thicket of state regulations and environmentalists' challenges, Poseidon Water is down to one major regulatory hurdle - the California Coastal Commission. The company feels confident enough to talk of breaking ground by the end of next year on the $1.4 billion plant that would produce some 50 million gallons of drinking water daily.
California's Coastal Commission is expected to vote on Poseidon's permit application before year's end. Other agencies also still need to sign off. But a key authority, a regional water board, approved a permit for the project in April on condition that the company increase its commitment to rehabilitate the nearby 1,449-acre (586-hectare) Bolsa Chica wetlands reserve, an important bird habitat, and build an artificial reef.
The Coastal Commission may require Poseidon, controlled by the infrastructure arm of Canada's Brookfield Asset Management, to provide additional mitigation at Bolsa Chica or elsewhere, said Tom Luster, the commission staff's senior environmental scientist. The political appointees and locally elected officials from coastal districts on the commission could choose their own course.
California's water wars date at least to the late 19th Century. This latest chapter shows grassroots movements can at least delay plans, if not halt them. A plant Poseidon has operated since 2015 down the coast in Carlsbad was approved locally before the state adopted regulations for desalination plants.
Poseidon's Carlsbad plant, sold to Aberdeen Standard Investments in 2019, produces 50 million gallons of drinking water daily, enough for 400,000 homes and meeting 10% of San Diego County's water demand. It is the Western hemisphere's largest desalination plant.
The Huntington Beach project would produce a similar amount, enough for 16% of the homes in the Orange County Water District, where 2.5 million people live.
While current drought conditions are particularly dramatic, California has seen extremely dry years for most of this century. Scientists say human-influenced climate change has exacerbated the situation.
Largely because of the energy required, the desalinated water that plants sell to local water authorities is the most expensive alternative to the water brought in from the Colorado River and Northern California.
The Huntington Beach plant would add $3 to $6 per month to the monthly bill of the average consumer in San Diego County, the Orange County Water District said.
Andrea Leon-Grossman, director of the climate action for the ocean conservation group Azul, says better alternatives include conservation, repairing leaky pipes, capturing stormwater runoff, and committing to more recycled water.
"Desalinated water is not the way to go," she said. "This is the most expensive way to source water, it's the most energy-intensive way to do it. And the way it decimates the ocean, both by the intake and by how we're dumping brine back into the ocean, is really, it should be the last resort, not the first way or sourcing water."
At the Carlsbad plant, ocean water is run through pipes to remove the largest solids, then pumped to reverse osmosis filters to remove salt.
The intake kills tiny organisms such as larvae and plankton. Some fish and other creatures die upon being sucked in or by the force of the water flow. Both Poseidon plants are now required to add finer intake screens to protect more fish.
Poseidon's Maloni said that no more than .02% of the plankton at risk of being sucked in would be affected at Huntington Beach and that no threatened or endangered species are at risk.
"The impacts from the intake of seawater for the purposes of desalination is the entrainment of microscopic organisms. In the case of Huntington Beach, the total quantity of impact would be no more than 0.02 percent of the plankton at risk of being entrained. There's no recorded endangered species that are at risk, and the mitigation that's in place will ensure that the project will be a net environmental benefit by producing more habitat that will be impacted by the operation of the facility," Maloni said.
Experts say more research is needed to determine how much sea life is destroyed by the Carlsbad plant, which, as Huntington Beach would do, uses intake pipes built for a retired power plant's cooling system.
A 2015 state environmental report by the staff of the State Water Resources Control Board examined studies on 18 power plants taking in water for cooling.
The report found that on average from 2000 to 2005, 19.4 billion larvae were caught up at intakes and about 2.7 million fish, along with marine mammals and sea turtles, were killed by intake equipment.
"The reality is, we are impacting that environment for this generation and the generations to come," said Newsha Ajami, a hydrologist, and director of Urban Water Policy with Stanford University's Water in the West research institute.
For every gallon of drinking water, desalination leaves behind another gallon of extremely salty brine. Carlsbad mixes that with two parts of ocean water before discharge. Huntington Beach would pump brine out to sea with a diffuser.
The dense discharge sinks to the ocean floor, the state water board staff report said, exposing bottom-dwelling marine life to brine and other potentially toxic materials.
The combined effects of intake and discharge in Huntington Beach will kill off the equivalent of 421 acres of ocean habitat, according to a Santa Ana Regional Water Control Board staff report.
Poseidon argues that California has the most stringent environmental regulations in the world, and its project would fail to get approved if it posed serious problems.
(Production: Alan Devall, Jane Ross)
- Copyright Holder: FILE REUTERS (CAN SELL)
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None