On Wednesday, the California Coastal Commission may green-light a massive desalination plant in Huntington Beach. If approved, it would be the second operation in the area. The nation’s largest seawater-to-drinking-water facility is under construction in Carlsbad and is expected to begin delivering a potable product in 2016.
Coastal Commission staff have recommended major changes to the proposed Huntington Beach plant to prevent marine life from being sucked up with the seawater. Staff estimate the ocean intake pipe could pull in some 80 million fish larvae, eggs and tiny sea creatures from about 100 miles of the coastline. They want the applicant, Poseidon Resources, to build an intake system under the sea floor that would gently pull water through a layer of sand, filtering out the marine life. Poseidon has said that would be too expensive and would effectively kill the project.
Here’s my recommendation. Shelve the proposal.
Ocean water desalination doesn’t pencil out. It’s far too expensive to produce potable water from seawater — about $2,000 an acre foot, compared to about $1,000 an acre foot for imported water. It requires a tremendous amount of energy to purify saltwater. And there are potentially serious environmental impacts from sucking in millions of gallons of ocean water and pumping the leftover brine back into the ocean.