Desalination 101

Huntington Beach Facility 3D Schematic

Q: What is seawater desalination?
A: Desalination is the state-of-the-art filtration system that converts seawater into safe, reliable drinking water. The process will use reverse osmosis membranes to remove salt and other impurities from the seawater.

Q: Is desalinated water safe to drink?
A: Yes. Reverse osmosis is the most advanced water treatment technology used in over 12,000 facilities worldwide. For the last 20 years, desalination plants have been using reverse osmosis, the same process used aboard cruise ships, navy vessels, and regions where there is no access to safe drinking water. In many arid countries, desalination facilities are the primary source of drinking water, with many of the plants larger than the facility planned for Huntington Beach. Reverse osmosis is also used prevalently in homes to reduce the “hardness” and improve the taste of ordinary tap water.

Q: Why is desalination necessary? Doesn’t Orange County have enough water?
A: The Huntington Beach Desalination Facility is an innovative, cost-effective solution to help reduce dependence on limited water sources while providing a safe, sufficient water supply that meets increasing demands. Orange County currently relies on water from shared, limited sources – the groundwater basin, Sacramento – San Joaquin Delta and the Colorado River.

  • Over 50 percent of Orange County’s water is imported from the Delta and the Colorado River. These sources are increasingly limited and face declining water availability, increased quality challenges and rising costs.
  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau, California had more than 37 million people as of 2010 and is expected to add about four million people between 2010 and 2020.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, California’s dependence on water for agriculture, industry and recreation makes drought planning a necessity for economic and quality of life reasons.
  • Orange County alone will grow by an additional 350,000 people over ten years, placing an increased strain on our historical sources of water.  350,000 new residents is the equivalent of having a city the size of Anaheim added to Orange County over a ten-year period.
  • Water facilities take many years to obtain approvals and to construct. This means new facilities are proposed in advance of the public’s need for the infrastructure in order to ensure it is operational by the time the water is required.

Poseidon Desalination Plant Diagram

Q: Where will the desalination facility be located?
A: The facility will be located, as part of the city-approved General Plan, on land adjacent to the AES Generating Station at Newland Street and Pacific Coast Highway. Using existing infrastructure will reduce environmental impacts, construction, and permitting costs – a major factor in making desalinated water more affordable.

Q: How large will the facility be?
A: The Huntington Beach Desalination Facility will be located on approximately 11 acres with no building over 35 feet in height – in many cases, reducing the height of existing structures.

Q: Why build this desalination facility in Huntington Beach?
A: The Huntington Beach site combines the best environmental location, proper zoning, and compatible land uses with access to the local and regional water distribution system. It is a cost-effective solution to provide residents with a safe and reliable water supply by using existing structures – at no cost to taxpayers.
Marine scientists have indicated that the Huntington Beach coast is well suited for a facility such as the Huntington Beach Desalination Facility due to the soft, sandy bottom, the open ocean location, and the lack of any Areas of Special Biological Significance (ASBS).

Q: Is the facility affiliated with the AES Generating Station?
A: No, the Huntington Beach Desalination Facility is completely independent, and AES and Poseidon are not affiliated with each other. The facility will have its permits separate from the generating station, ensuring that government agencies make independent decisions on the operation of each separate facility.

Q: What if the AES site shuts down?
A: The Huntington Beach Desalination Water Treatment Facility is completely independent of the AES site. The desalination site will continue to operate with or without the AES plant online.

Q: How much water would the Huntington Beach Desalination Facility provide?
A: The facility will provide 50 million gallons of safe drinking water per day (50 MGD). The facility will produce enough water to meet approximately 8 percent of Orange County’s water needs. On-site storage will also provide a guaranteed safe, reliable drinking water supply to Orange County in times of emergency, reducing risks of water shortages, and dependence on imported water.

Q: Aside from additional safe drinking water, what other benefits would this water treatment facility bring to Huntington Beach?
A: In addition to the city saving millions of dollars in avoiding local water storage infrastructure upgrades, the Huntington Beach Desalination Facility will provide the city with an estimated $2 million per year in annual tax revenue and avoided infrastructure costs for 30 years, additional money that could help support:

  • More police and fire safety
  • More parks and playgrounds
  • New streets and pothole repair
  • New sidewalk, curb, and gutter repair
  • New community and senior centers

There will also be visual improvements on Pacific Coast Highway and Newland Street including the removal of old oil storage tanks, cleaning up of the site and improved city-approved landscapes – at no cost to taxpayers.
Because of its location within the Southeast Redevelopment District Area, the tax revenues may provide additional public works funding for needed capital improvements in the neighborhoods of Southeast Huntington Beach.

Q: How much will the desalination facility cost and who will pay for it?
A: The Huntington Beach Desalination Facility will cost approximately $1 bllion. It will be built and operated by Poseidon Water, a company that invests in water facilities throughout North America, all at no cost to taxpayers.
For more information about Poseidon Water please visit www.poseidonwater.com.

Q: Will this proposed desalination facility increase water bills for Huntington Beach residents?
A: As a wholesale water provider, the facility does not control retail rates charged by individual cities or water districts in Orange County. However, Huntington Beach will have the option to purchase water at prices that are at a discount to those charged by the Municipal Water District of Orange County and the Metropolitan Water District.

Q: Who will receive water from the facility?
A: A safe, reliable water supply will be available to Orange County cities and water agencies. Furthermore, water storage and connections for fire and other services will also be available in times of emergency and water shortage.

Q: How much will the water sell for?
A: The water will be priced at rates that will be competitive with other new sources of high quality drinking water and because of its location advantages; it should be the lowest cost desalinated seawater on the California coast.

Q: Is desalination harmful to the marine environment?
A: No. The facility will be safe for the marine environment and Poseidon Resources is working with local and state regulatory agencies to ensure proper safeguards are in place before, during, and after construction. Poseidon Resources is investing in a state-of-the-art technology filtration system that goes above and beyond environmental standards.

Q: Will marine organisms be harmed?
A: The extensive analysis done by some of the leading marine biologists in California found that the project will have an insignificant impact on marine organisms or the environment.

Q: What happens to the salt once it is removed from the seawater?
A: The concentrated saltwater is mixed with the circulating cooling water of the AES Generating Station, significantly diluting the concentrated seawater, and released back into the ocean, where it will be further diluted and dissipated to meet all local, state and federal standards including California’s Ocean Plan standards.

Q: Has an environmental study been conducted?
A: The city of Huntington Beach completed an independent environmental impact study of the project and its potential effects to the local environment with a comprehensive report released for public review and comment on April 5, 2005. The environmental impact report (“EIR”) contained numerous studies by experts in all aspects of potential impacts to the environment including studies relating to marine, air quality, land use, and water quality impacts. The certification of the Environmental Impact Report is a vote of confidence in the environmental sensitivity of the facility. The extensive scientific investigations conducted over the last decade ensure the facility is safe for the environment.

Q: Who will oversee and approve the development of this desalination facility to make sure it is safe and reliable?
A: Poseidon Water received approvals and permits from numerous public agencies, including the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the California Department of Health Services, the State Lands Commission, and the City of Huntington Beach. The final regulatory permit needed is from the California Coastal Commission.  These agencies and government bodies also require monitoring and have the right to revoke their approvals if the project is not built and operated to standards consistent with their approvals.

Q: Would this new desalination facility bring more traffic to Huntington Beach?
A: No. The facility will only have 18 full-time employees spread out through a 24 hour day. In addition, Poseidon Water will make improvements to Newland Street, adjacent to the facility – at no cost to taxpayers..

Q:Will the new pipeline for the plant create the same problems as the OCSD pipeline?
A: No. the City of Huntington Beach will have complete control of the construction plans and methods to be used. In addition, the pipe from the water treatment plant will be much smaller than the OCSD pipe – 4 feet diameter versus 9 feet diameter for the OCSD pipe. The smaller pipe means Poseidon Water will not have to dig as deep as the OCSD pipe to construct the pipeline. Additionally, since the Poseidon pipe does not have to be dug as deeply, the need for dewatering is eliminated.

Q: Will the desalination facility destroy the appearance of the community?
A: Quite the opposite. When the facility is built, Poseidon Water will enhance the local landscape in and around the existing power generating station. Planting trees, repaving and widening roads, and removing old, unsightly oil storage tanks on AES land are some of the benefits.
The city Design Review Board has reviewed and specified the exterior appearance of the facilities and all landscaping related to the property.
The desalination facility will not involve any buildings over two stories tall, lower in height than all the structures currently standing behind the generating station.

Q: Will there be a need to construct new water inlet and outlet pipes underground?
A: No. The water intake and return system is already part of the Huntington Beach Generating Station on PCH. The desalination facility will simply tap into the existing intake and outfall facilities on the discharge side.

Q: Where can I learn more about desalination?
A: You can learn more by visiting the following web sites:

Poseidon Water Carlsbad Desalination Project: www.carlsbaddesal.com