News Feature | March 16, 2017

Trump Backed Cali Desal, But Hurdles Remain

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome

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Does California need another seawater desalination plant?

Despite a seeming endorsement from the Trump administration, the proposal for a desalination facility in Huntington Beach, CA, is running up against the criticism that it is unnecessary and that the water it would provide would be wasteful.

The critique goes like this: The region may not need as much water as the plant would supply. A reliability study released last month by the Municipal Water District of Orange County offered figures on how much water will be needed in 2040. According to OC Weekly, the study shows that Orange County Water District “will only need 6,500 acre feet of new water. The plant, according to the study, will supply nearly 56,000 acre feet of new water per year, putting the proposed desal plant in a wasteful light.”

In other words, OC Weekly reported, the project “would produce far too much water.” The weekly said the proposal is looking “more unnecessary than ever.”

An additional problem is that the desalination backers are “still without a customer to purchase their water,” according to OC Weekly.

The desalination plant is currently in “late-stage development,” according to Poseidon Water, the company in control of the project. “Poseidon Water is in the final phase of the project’s permitting process and is currently working with state agencies to secure the remaining development permits,” the company says. The same company developed the giant desalination plant in Carlsbad, CA, supplying water for San Diego County.

The new project appears to have the support of the Trump administration.

“A document purportedly leaked by the Trump administration identifies the proposed Poseidon Water desalination plant in Huntington Beach as a priority project for the new president's private-public partnership agenda,” The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this year.

The document called the Huntington Beach desalination proposal a “cost-effective, environmentally-sensitive solution to provide a safe and reliable water supply to Orange County residents and has the potential to bring significant economic benefits for the city of Huntington Beach and the region.”

However, it is unclear how helpful the administration’s support will be in this process.

“The final three permitting approvals the company must secure before construction can begin are all from state agencies, not federal ones; and the project doesn’t depend on federal funding,” High Country News reported.

Image credit: "HB Pier," Coby White © 2006, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: