Irvine Ranch Water District should not foot the bill for a desalination project it doesn't need

IRVINE, Calif. - Oct. 18, 2017 - PRLog -- Water suppliers in California have one job: provide clean, reliable, and affordable water to our customers.  State law guarantees this basic service to every human being, and it's up to us to make good on that promise.  That is why we at the Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD) have serious concerns about Poseidon's Huntington Beach desalination proposal.  It would drive up bills for our ratepayers and degrade the groundwater we depend on without meeting any real need.

At IRWD, we have been working for over fifty years to boost water use efficiency, and to develop drought-proof local supplies.  Recycled water makes up nearly 30 percent of the total water used in the District, keeping our parks, golf courses and ballfields green, cooling big buildings and supporting manufacturing processes.  The Irvine Desalter Project supplies enough water for 50,000 people by cleaning up brackish water from a previously untapped aquifer.  Irvine Lake and other reservoirs capture and store rainwater and runoff.  Nearly one thousand acres of groundwater recharge ponds in Kern County allow us to bank water for use in future droughts.

These investments have put us in a position where we can meet our customers' needs without Poseidon's billion-dollar project.  We don't need their water, and we should not be forced to pay for it.  Poseidon's desalinated seawater would be the single most expensive source of water in Orange County.  This for-profit company's agreement with Orange County Water District guarantees a healthy dividend for their investors, and hefty water bill increases for water ratepayers in Orange County.

The high cost and lack of need would be reason enough for concern, but there is another problem that is perhaps even more important.  Rather than building a multimillion-dollar pipe system to distribute the desalinated water, Poseidon and Orange County Water District want to pump 50 million gallons per day into the groundwater aquifer.  If they are allowed to do this, our groundwater will get saltier, and we would see higher levels of boron and other pollutants.

Studies have shown that this degradation in groundwater water quality will risk impairing IRWD's ability to deliver clean, affordable water to our customers.  It will reduce the quality of the drinking water we serve customers, as well as impair the quality of the recycled water used for irrigation across our service area.  Suddenly and with no say in the matter, IRWD customers would be on the hook not just for Poseidon's overpriced water that we don't need, but also the cost to re-treat that water after it is pumped from the ground, and to filter out chemicals like boron during the recycling process.

In addition to degrading water quality, this plan to inject desalinated seawater into groundwater basins will reduce our capacity to collect and store rain during wet weather.  If the groundwater basin is kept full year-round because of a take-or-pay contract with Poseidon, Orange County will lose our ability to harness excess flows in the Santa Ana River during winter storms. Instead we will be sending that freshwater right out to sea, where it will have to be desalinated before use.

IRWD has requested that the California State Lands Commission conduct a full environmental study that considers impacts like pollution of groundwater and alternative methods to meet water needs.  The State Lands Commission is the first of three government panels that must approve the project before construction can start.  However, State Lands Commissioners and other officials have been under tremendous pressure by Poseidon and its lobbyists to shortcut the review process and fast track approval.  I am urging the Commission and other responsible agencies to stand strong against this corporate lobbying, and put the rights of consumers and the quality of Orange County's groundwater first.  At the end of the day, California should not be permitting any projects that undermine our ability to provide clean, affordable water for all.

Peer A. Swan
Vice President,
Irvine Ranch Water District Board of Directors

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Tags:desalination water Irvine
Industry:Engineering, Government
Location:Irvine - California - United States
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