Dear Chairwoman Green and OCWD Directors
Seawater desalination will inevitably be part of our future, and the Orange County Water District (OCWD) is the most appropriate public agency to ensure this new water supply project is built in a timely manner.
OCWD was visionary 20 years ago when it foresaw the need to diversify its water supply and reduce its dependency on imported water by partnering with the Orange County Sanitation District to build the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS). Building a state-of-the-art facility to recycle sewer water, which was initially more expensive than continuing to buy imported water took vision, tenacity and strength by your board. However, your agency understood the importance of a diversified water portfolio and moved forward with the project, which is now lauded worldwide for its wise use of water resources.
OCWD’s draft Long-term Facilities Plan identifies the Huntington Beach Desalination Project as a priority facility. A large-scale desalination project can be OCWD’s second chapter in its effort to become more self-reliant in terms of its water supply. According to your staff’s analysis, even under the best-case-scenario if GWRS is able to expand to its ultimate 130,000 acre-foot annual capacity and OCWD is able to continue to obtain its extra Santa Ana River baseflow of 100,000 acre-feet and stormflow of 70,000 acre-feet, by 2035 you will still need to import more than 130,000 acre-feet of water per year. That’s about 25% of your overall water supply. In a worst-case scenario of no phase 3 expansion of GWRS and your Santa Ana River baseflows reduced to your allotted 37,000 acre feet, according to your staff analysis, by 2035 you’ll need to import about 220,000 acre-feet per year or 43% of your water supply.
Desalination is not a silver bullet and is not intended to be. This project will provide 56,000 acre-feet of water annually, which is enough for about 300,000 people. Just as with GWRS, the cost of the desal will initially be slightly more expensive than imported water, but based on the traditional inexorable rising cost of imported water and relatively flat cost of desal water, the District’s January 2, 2014 staff report concludes that those lines could cross in the near term, making desalination the more economical water choice. But regardless of other factors, the major benefit of this project is that it provides Orange County with a 100 percent drought-proof water supply that is locally-controlled.
While inevitably the drought we’re currently suffering through will end, our need to reduce our reliance on imported water will not. Please take the steps necessary in your partnership with Poseidon Water to ensure this project is built in order to bring a new, environmentally-sensitive, economically-feasible and much-needed drought proof water supply to Orange County.