4 votes

Critics blast Poseidon desalination plan as crucial vote looms

10 comments

  1. [7]
    skybrian
    Link
    From the article: Ample water they say. I have trouble believing that.

    From the article:

    The debate has reached a critical stage in Huntington Beach, where Poseidon Water has been trying for more than two decades to build one of the country’s largest desalination plants.

    The California Coastal Commission is scheduled to vote next month on whether to grant a permit to build the plant. But in a stance that could hinder the company’s plans, the agency’s staff recommended on Monday that the commission reject the proposed project.

    Ample water they say. I have trouble believing that.

    4 votes
    1. [6]
      rosco
      Link Parent
      From your previous article about water management in San Diego it seemed like more efficient water use coupled with waste water processing had a much bigger impact than desal. It's frustrating...

      From your previous article about water management in San Diego it seemed like more efficient water use coupled with waste water processing had a much bigger impact than desal. It's frustrating that folks are pointing to desal as some sort of silver bullet.

      1 vote
      1. [5]
        skybrian
        Link Parent
        That's not how I interpret the article about San Diego. They are conserving water, recycling water, they built a desalinization plant, and they're also doubling the size of a reservoir. All of...

        That's not how I interpret the article about San Diego. They are conserving water, recycling water, they built a desalinization plant, and they're also doubling the size of a reservoir. All of these things help. They have different strengths and weaknesses. It's a multi-pronged approach.

        I would say instead that opponents of desalinization argue that conservation and recycling are enough. I'm skeptical that they are enough to last through many-year droughts. What if California droughts go on longer due to climate change?

        However, question of "is it enough" can't be settled based on arguing about principles. There are calculations that need to be made. I would like to see arguments made with lots of charts.

        4 votes
        1. [4]
          rosco
          Link Parent
          Definitely agree across the board, multi-pronged approaches are necessary. I just feel like desalinization is often sold as a silver bullet. As per your last post, it made up 10% of the gains. I'm...

          Definitely agree across the board, multi-pronged approaches are necessary. I just feel like desalinization is often sold as a silver bullet. As per your last post, it made up 10% of the gains.

          I'm skeptical that they are enough to last through many-year droughts. What if California droughts go on longer due to climate change?

          I'm of two minds on solutions for the water crisis. Some of the effects of our current crisis are the result of bad policy and regulation, a la the use of water in California agriculture. But our water policy is so convoluted and inflammatory that I don't see that untangling any time soon. I think another option is also pretty unpopular, people need to move. It doesn't make sense that we're supporting that many people in the middle of the desert. LA started as a water con and we've been struggling to keep up ever since. If we heavily limited water, particularly in affluent/heavy water usage area, there will be a migration away from cities like LA. Unfortunately I believe it would be the usual suspects who would bear the burden in that scenario (poor folks, people of color...) so in reality it may not be a great approach. It just seems like we have plenty of resources in other parts of the country to support populations of that size. Like you say there needs to be a multi-pronged approach, but I think some of the viable options for that, particularly regulation, are often overlooked in favor of more "optimistic" engineering approaches.

          2 votes
          1. [3]
            skybrian
            Link Parent
            It seems to me that opposing desalination can in effect be an anti-growth strategy. I don't know about Huntington Beach, but on the Monterey peninsula you can't build a house due to water...

            It seems to me that opposing desalination can in effect be an anti-growth strategy. I don't know about Huntington Beach, but on the Monterey peninsula you can't build a house due to water restrictions. There are waiting lists for getting permission to connect to the water system or make improvements to houses. (Though I suspect it helps if you're politically connected. I heard an architect say something like "those restrictions aren't for us" but I don't know what he meant by that.) Meanwhile, a desalination plant is blocked, and the water recycling project that people support instead is delayed, and the water system is on the edge of needing even more severe water restrictions.

            Meanwhile, rents go up. The increase in rents probably costs poor people more than the water would. Rich people don't really see the issue. (Instead, housing gets built further away that uses Salinas water.)

            So, sure, people have to move, but the reason they have to move (them, not us) is because the infrastructure needed to enable growth is opposed.

            I think you have enough water when you don't need special water rules or restrictions on building. Instead, in Monterey, water restrictions seem to be accepted as the way things are.

            3 votes
            1. [2]
              rosco
              Link Parent
              I'm glad you brought it up, Monterey is one of the few places I do have a handle on the water situation. You're totally right, opposing desalination can be anti-growth. There is a vacant lot near...

              I'm glad you brought it up, Monterey is one of the few places I do have a handle on the water situation. You're totally right, opposing desalination can be anti-growth.

              There are waiting lists for getting permission to connect to the water system or make improvements to houses.

              There is a vacant lot near us that we call "the Harry Potter House" because the lot can't be developed due to water restrictions. It's commercial too, we have neighbors that tried to open a brewery but the cost to convert from type A commercial (light water usage) to type C (heavy water usage) was nearly $300,000.

              (Though I suspect it helps if you're politically connected. I heard an architect say something like "those restrictions aren't for us" but I don't know what he meant by that.)

              Infuriatingly if you ever take 17 mile drive you'll notice all of the new, and often excessive construction. I've always assumed there are grandfathered laws baked into Pebble Beach/Del Monte but it still seems absurd that they are don't need to adhere to similar regulation.

              Meanwhile, a desalination plant is blocked, and the water recycling project that people support instead is delayed, and the water system is on the edge of needing even more severe water restrictions.

              I understood that there was good reason behind blocking the desal plant because Elkhorn Slough is critical to the Monterey Bay fisheries as a nursery habitat (more of a commercial vs commercial instead of commercial vs ecology situation).

              Meanwhile, rents go up. The increase in rents probably costs poor people more than the water would. Rich people don't really see the issue. (Instead, housing gets built further away that uses Salinas water.)

              Have you seen Marina or Seaside recently? The entire area is being converted to suburban sprawl. There seems to be plenty of new construction, the majority are heavy water use single family homes. We have identified these issues and then seemly ignore them. It seems like developing higher density, mixed use housing in those areas could offset the housing demand and make the same impact as a desal plant without the negative impacts or additional energy costs.

              I think this is the crux of my position. We keep engineering to expand and grow in the same way we have since WW2. Things have changed and we need to adapt. Zoning needs to change, development incentives need to change, and water access needs to change. This isn't to say we need engineering improvements as well. I agree with your sentiment, but we need to address what is driving demand too.

              Sorry for the point by point reply. You have completely valid points and I wanted to add a little food for thought. It also sounds like we might be neighbors!

              3 votes
              1. skybrian
                Link Parent
                I'm not actually in Monterey, but I visit frequently since my wife is from there. There's a vacant lot where sometimes we think about building a house.

                I'm not actually in Monterey, but I visit frequently since my wife is from there. There's a vacant lot where sometimes we think about building a house.

                2 votes
  2. [3]
    vord
    Link
    This seems at-odds with the 'raised prices' narrative. Is the project lucrative, such that it will pay for itself with normal demand and prices, or a big money sink that has no chance to recoup...

    lobbying for lucrative project

    This seems at-odds with the 'raised prices' narrative. Is the project lucrative, such that it will pay for itself with normal demand and prices, or a big money sink that has no chance to recoup costs without subsiding and raising rates?

    If only there was some well-established way of insuring that the utility was only charging what was absolutely neccessary to provide the needed function. Like a traditional public utility. Or if you want to try something newer, like a consumer-owned utility cooperative.

    The dismantling of public utilities for private ownership is an abomination that needs corrected.

    4 votes
    1. [2]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      Yes, it seems like an argument that should be made with numbers. It looks like the contract hasn't been negotiated yet. We could look at the San Diego plant to see how it was done before. I...

      Yes, it seems like an argument that should be made with numbers.

      It looks like the contract hasn't been negotiated yet. We could look at the San Diego plant to see how it was done before. I haven't read the contract but it's here.

      The Water Authority purchases water from the plant at pre-defined prices. If the water does not meet quality requirements specified in the agreement, the Water Authority does not pay. The agreement also specifies that the Water Authority has the right to ensure that the plant is operated and maintained in a safe, efficient manner consistent with industry standards. At the end of the agreement’s 30-year term, the Water Authority may purchase the plant for $1.

      4 votes
      1. vord
        Link Parent
        That's a pretty fair contract as far as mixed-market should go. 'Provided you run things the way you're supposed to, you're entitled to a reasonable ROI over 30 years, at which time it is...

        That's a pretty fair contract as far as mixed-market should go. 'Provided you run things the way you're supposed to, you're entitled to a reasonable ROI over 30 years, at which time it is transferred to public ownership.'

        4 votes