California panel unanimously rejects plant’s proposal to turn seawater into drinking water

The plant is said to have produced 50 million gallons of water per day.

California water officials have unanimously canceled a $1.4 billion plan to build a beachfront desalination plant amid a water crisis triggered by mega-drought and climate change .

The California Coastal Commission, which is charged with protecting the state’s coastlines, voted on Thursday to deny seawater desalination developer Poseidon Water a permit to build a desalination plant in Huntington Beach.

California Governor Gavin Newsom was among the backers of the plan, which promised to produce 50 million gallons of clean drinking water a day. Steve Sheldon, chairman of the Orange County Water District, said the plant would make the county “drought-resistant.”

Several environmental and ocean justice groups, as well as the commission itself, have opposed the project for reasons including environmental conservation, marine life, and possible increased water bills.

“The project would kill marine life in approximately 275 million gallons of seawater per day,” Tom Luster, the commission’s desalination expert, told the panel on Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.

Critics included the Society of Native Nations, which spoke out to “defend, honor and protect our oceans”, and the Orange County Coast Guard, which accused supporters of the desalination plan of building it to “keep watering the walkways and have lavish water-wasting landscapes,” according to ABC Station Los Angeles KABC.

Freshwater sources in the southwest are facing critical shortages after a decades-long mega-drought, which is expected to intensify and spread eastward. Last month, ‘unprecedented’ water restrictions were ordered for millions of people in Southern California, while human remains were discovered in Lake Mead as water levels continue to drop at historic levels.

Desalination plants remove mineral components from salt water to create drinking and agricultural water sources, but are notoriously expensive. The cost of seawater treatment is approximately $2,000 to $3,000 per acre foot. That’s about two or three times the cost of the second cheapest source, which is water conservation – like buying water from farmers and reusing waste water, civil engineering professor Jay Lund and environmental at the University of California, Davis and the head of the school’s Watershed Science Center, told ABC News last year.

A desalination plant proposed by Poseidon Water two decades ago was built in San Diego County in 2015 and now accounts for 10% of the county’s water supply, according to the AP. Poseidon proposed a plant for Huntington Beach at the same time, but the commission expressed concern in 2013 that the proposed use of water intake structures to rapidly draw large volumes of water from the ocean would harm life. Marine.

Poseidon then pledged to conduct additional studies and resubmit a plan to mitigate damage to marine life through the restoration of nearby wetlands, according to AP.

In a statement, Poseidon said he was discouraged by the decision.

“California continues to face a punishing drought with no end in sight,” the statement said. “Every day we see new calls for conservation as reservoir levels drop to dangerous levels. We strongly believe that this desalination project would have created a sustainable, drought-resistant water source.”