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Desalination advances in CA, environmentalists fret

This desalination plant in Carlsbad, California - the largest in the Western Hemisphere - produces 50 million gallons of drinking water daily… enough for 400 thousand homes in San Diego County.

And now, as Western states face an epic drought, Poseidon Water - which operates the plant - could soon get approval to build another desalination plant… this time, near a power plant in Huntington Beach.

And environmentalists aren’t happy about it.

"It's great to be water independent, and we should be striving for that. But we should be doing it in a responsible way. And desalinated water is not the way to go.”

Andrea Leon-Grossmann is with the ocean conservation group Azul.

“This is the most expensive way to source water, it's the most energy intensive way to do it. And the way it decimates the ocean, both by the intake and by how we're dumping brine back into the ocean, is really, it should be the last resort, not the first way for sourcing water.”

Desalination - at its most basic - removes salt water from ocean water, making it fresh and drinkable.

But the intake method is problematic, according to environmentalists, who say that tiny organisms such as larvae and plankton get killed in the process.

Poseidon is now required to add finer intake screens to protect more fish.

Poseidon - which has been trying to build the Huntington plant for 22 years and some $100 million has been spent navigating state regulations - insists the new project will actually help the environment.

VP of Poseidon Water, Scott Maloni:

“In the case of Huntington Beach, the total quantity of impact would be no more than 0.02 percent of the plankton at risk of being entrained. There's no threatened or endangered species that are at risk, and the mitigation that's in place will ensure that the project will be a net environmental benefit, by producing more habitat that will be impacted by the operation of the facility.”

A regional water board has approved a permit for the project on condition that the company increase its commitment to rehabilitate a nearby wetlands reserve and build an artificial reef.

There is one last major regulatory hurdle; the California Coastal Commission, which is expected to vote before the end of the year.

Despite the opposition from conservationists, the company feels confident enough to talk of breaking ground by the end of 2022 on the $1.4 billion plant that would produce tens of millions of gallons of drinking water daily… Much needed good news for communities struggling with the ravages of drought.

For Poseidon’s Scott Maloni, it’s a no brainer… telling Reuters: The Pacific Ocean is the largest reservoir in the world and it's always full.

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