A developer is looking to construct a $1.4 billion desalination plant near Huntington State Beach in order to make water from the ocean available for drinking.
On Thursday, the California Coastal Commission is set to vote on the Poseidon Water plant, which would be constructed close to the Pacific Coast Highway and Magnolia, according to outlet KTLA.
Jessica Jones, the director of communications at Poseidon Water, a U.S. seawater desalination developer, said, “The site in Huntington Beach is a perfect site for sea water desalination.”
The potential project has been met with pushback. Democratic Governor of California Gavin Newsom is in favor of the idea, but some are concerned about the financial and environmental impacts.
The possible plant would work like Poseidon Water’s location in Carlsbad, which pushes seawater through a procedure that involves utilizing thousands of pressure vessels, along with reverse osmosis to get rid of the salt in the water.
Authorities with Poseidon reportedly said that it only takes around two hours from when the water arrives from the ocean to make it potable. California is facing an intense drought, affecting farmers and municipalities across the state. Those who are in favor of the process say the plant will provide a beneficial source of water that won’t be affected by droughts.
“What that means is that it’s not dependent on snowpack in the Sierras or local rainfall,” Jones said.
The Huntington Beach location would utilize around 107 million gallons of ocean water per day to make around 50 million gallons of water that would be safe for people to drink. But it comes at a cost of around 57 million gallons of brine left over, which is water with high levels of salt. The brine would be diffused as it is delivered back into the sea.
However, some point out the negative sides to building the plant.
“There’s something for everybody to dislike about this plant,” Ray Hiemstra, associate director of programs at nonprofit Orange County Coastkeeper, said.
A report by staff of the California Coastal Commission said, “The facility, in total, would kill marine life in about 100 billion gallons of seawater per year, resulting in substantial losses of marine ecosystem productivity and reduced water quality, all of which would require significant mitigation.”
The report included mitigation possibilities, but wasn’t optimistic.
It noted, “The Regional Board also determined that Poseidon could offset this loss of marine life by providing mitigation in the form of more productive habitat that totaled 100.5 mitigation credits each year,” adding that “Poseidon proposed, and the Regional Board imposed, mitigation measures to address these impacts through a project in the nearby Bolsa Chica Lowland Restoration area and at the Palos Verdes Restoration Reef site.”
The report stated, however, that “this mitigation is far less than needed to ensure conformity to Coastal Act provisions.”
Some also wonder whether the desalinated water is necessary. Hiemstra noted that Orange County is “in a unique situation” with a large aquifer.
But Newsom is in favor of constructing the facility, stating that possessing more possibilities for water is necessary for California. The Orange County Water District also pressed the California Coastal Commission to green light the plan.
“With Southern California’s water reserves dropping lower every day and this seawater desalination project the only new, large water supply project in the entire state of California that can be shovel ready in the immediate future, we call upon the Coastal Commissioners to approve the permit,” water district authorities said in an email to the outlet.