Poseidon earns support of Orange County Water District

Plans to build a desalination plant in Huntington Beach clears a major hurdle at July 18 meeting.

HUNTINGTON BEACH — A non-binding agreement for a new desalination plant to come online in Huntington Beach was approved by the Orange County Water District on July 18, giving Poseidon Water a major victory in its effort to provide privatized freshwater to a few hundred thousand people.

Poseidon’s plans to build a desalination plant on the Huntington Beach coast has proved to be divisive, with some claiming it’s the best solution to California’s drought-stricken communities. Others argued the desalination project was too expensive and came attached with environmental threats.

The Water District, nonetheless, voted 6-2 in favor of granting the $1 billion desalination project its non-binding agreement.

Terms of the approved non-binding agreement reduced the Water District’s commitment to Poseidon Water from 50 years to 30-35 years. The price of desalinated water provided to customers from Poseidon would be directly attached to costs, which was not the case in earlier iterations of proposed agreements. Poseidon might also be required to build any new infrastructure needed for water distribution, according to the new terms.

Several regulatory hurdles, meanwhile, must still be cleared, so the July 18 vote does not mean Poseidon Water can now start building its proposed plant.

Poseidon, which already operates a desalination plant in the San Diego suburb of Carlsbad, still needs to earn approvals from the Regional Water Quality District (later this year) and the California Coastal Commission (at some point next year).

The water company has long maintained the cost desalinated water would eventually become cheaper than importing freshwater from out of state, making it a more sustainable option to counter California’s rampant drought situations.

In-depth coverage of the updated terms will be revisited in a later issue of The Log.

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