Poseidon's Problems

  • Posted on 6 August 2020
  • By Randy Kokal
Guest Commentary:
As former chair of the Huntington Beach Planning Commission, I presided over 40 hours of Poseidon’s hearings.  I offer four reasons why the Regional Water Board should reject the project at Friday’s meeting, and a suggestion.
1. Hidden Tax.
If Poseidon is approved, the citizens of Southern California may pay the largest hidden tax in my lifetime. This hidden tax is the difference consumers will pay, because Poseidon is an international corporation, and has profits guaranteed for its 35 to 50 year lifespan.  Consumers will pay up to six times more for their water! Plus there is an annual 3% price escalator clause!  These estimates are the best we can do as Poseidon’s term sheet does not include actual prices! Would you buy a house if the seller could decide upon the price after the contract was signed?
2. Desalinization Wins the Most Expensive Water Prize!
Current groundwater costs $450/acre foot, while ratepayers of Poseidon’s Carlsbad plant pay $2800/acre foot. Poseidon’s water is already 6.2 times more expensive than O.C. ground water!
3. We Don’t Need Poseidon
In 2018 the O.C. Water District report shows O.C. in a uniquely favorable situation when compared to the Carlsbad area:
A) Orange County is on top of an aquifer
B) O.C. has the Santa Ana River, another source of fresh water
C) Twelve years ago, Orange County began to reclaim waste water and replenishes the aquifer daily
D) Over the last 20 years conservation has helped to shrink demand.
4. Rate Payers May Be Forced to buy Unneeded Water (and then Pump It Into the Ground).
Poseidon wants to produce more water than the region needs and force us to purchase their expensive water and dump it into the aquifer! This is precisely what the Ground Water Replenishment System has been doing for 12 years (and at much cheaper rates).
When we want a desalination plant, we should construct one that is cheaper to build and operate. So what is the “secret sauce” that lowers construction and operating costs? It’s a municipal utility (just like the O.C. Water and Sanitation Districts)! Cheaper to build, because it would be right sized for the region’s needs, not for Poseidon’s profits. A utility is cheaper to operate, because it won’t need to raise rates to generate profits for directors and shareholders. The people of Orange County should be outraged at the prospect of this hidden and completely unnecessary tax.

[Header photo: Zombie Poseidon © OC Coastkeeper all rights reserved]


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The Santa Ana River is fully appropriated. The Upper Santa Ana River Habitat Conservation Plan is intended to facilitate the development of over 100,000 acre feet of new water supplies, but that will come at significant cost much higher than the groundwater pumping cost cited here. Groundwater cannot be a source for new supply for several reasons including the state law now restricting pumping.

SGMA which is the state law you're referring to does not restrict groundwater pumping in the way you're imagining it, especially here in SoCal. All of SoCal have managed their water basins quite differently since the 1970's when SoCal realized there was an over pumping issue, imported water combined with recycled water was used then to recharge basins. In some places now only recycled water is used. There will not be an over-pumping issue in OC because OCWD already manages their aquifer by replenishing it with recycled water. However, if the water is purchased from Poseidon at $2800/ACF and that water is then injected into the aquifer, it will significantly bring up the cost of groundwater. That is the current plan because the water is unneeded. The plan is to pay ( and we're using today's Carlsbard plant rate), and pump up to 40 million gallons per day into the aquifer, then take it out and treat it, remove the boron and pump into homes. "SGMA requires governments and water agencies of high and medium priority basins to halt overdraft and bring groundwater basins into balanced levels of pumping and recharge." - water.ca.gov

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