Water Officials Warn of Looming Crisis as Poseidon Prepares for Hearing on Final Permit for Desalination Plant

Water officials wary of dwindling supply because of drought. Poseidon Water proposes privately funded desalination plant in Huntington Beach that would produce 50 million gallons of fresh water daily.

Huntington Beach, CA – As the Coastal Commission prepares in November to consider the Huntington Beach Desalination project, years of drought are threatening future water supplies in Southern California.

Southern California depends on a complex system to deliver water to residents. Some water travels more than 700 miles through the State Water Project. The Colorado River is another source.

On the State Water Project, the state’s largest reservoirs – Lake Shasta and Lake Oroville – are well below their average levels after two consecutive dry years. In the Colorado River basin, which supplies Southern California with about 25 percent of its water, the drought has stretched a decade, the Los Angeles Times reports. The last two years on the Colorado were the driest in 100 years, leaving Lake Powell and Lake Mead more than half empty.

When it comes to water, the state is basically living off of its savings account. “We are going to pull down our storage very heavily this year and next,” Jeff Kightlinger, general manager of Metropolitan Water District, told the Riverside Press Enterprise. “2014 is shaping up as a potentially very dry year.”

State water officials made the announcement on October 14, at the end of the “water year.” The announcements also came a month before the California Coastal Commission is set to consider the final remaining permit for Poseidon Water’s plan to build a desalination plant in Huntington Beach. That plant, similar to a Poseidon plant under construction in Carlsbad, would produce 50 million gallons of fresh water daily.  Today, Orange County must import approximately 50% of its water supply to meet demand. The desalinated water from the Huntington Beach project would provide a new locally-controlled, drought-proof source that reduces the County’s need to import water.

The Coastal Commission hearing is in November, either the 13th or 14th, at Newport Beach City Hall. Coastal Commission staff is expected to confirm the hearing date within the next week.

Water officials are quick to compliment residents for their conservation efforts, but also say that conservation alone will not solve the region’s water challenges. Conservation, recycled water and new sources of water – such as desalination – are all key pieces in meeting Southern California’s water demand. Orange County is a leader when it comes to water conservation and is on track to meet all state water conservation mandates. Per capita water use is less than 190 gallons per day, which is lower than the state average.  As a result, Orange County’s water consumption is lower today than it was in 1989, notwithstanding an over 20% increase in population since that period of time.

In a recent letter to Coastal Commission Chairwoman Mary Shallenberger urging approval of the project’s permit, Orange County Water District General Manager Mike Markus wrote, “The District believes the Project is beneficial enhancing regional water supply reliability by diversifying Orange County’s portfolio with a new local drought-proof source.”  On May 15, 2013, the Orange County Water District unanimously resolved that it is the policy of the District to consider and develop a variety of local water resources to ensure sufficient water supplies are always available to the residents and businesses in the service territory.  The Board resolution states, “Without the development of additional new local water resources the Groundwater Producers will be forced to significantly increase the amount of imported water they require.”

Poseidon Water specializes in developing and financing water infrastructure projects, primarily seawater desalination and water treatment plants.  These projects are implemented through innovative public-private partnerships in which private enterprise assumes the developmental and financial risks.  For more information on Poseidon Resources and the Huntington Beach desalination plant visit our website at www.HBfreshwater.com.


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