Tap Dance [A Clockwork Orange]

Illustration by Kevin McVeigh

A study on the cost effectiveness and financial risk of proposals to meet water-supply demands through 2050 concludes that the controversial Poseidon desalination project in Huntington Beach would produce more water than Orange County needs and cost ratepayers far more than such alternatives as recycling and capturing rainwater.

Created by the Irvine engineering consultant CDM Smith Inc. for the Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC), the recently released 2018 Reliability Study aims to give water agencies the information needed when deciding whether to develop local sources or purchase imported water.

The study is not anti-desalination, as it concludes that a plant proposed in Dana Point is among the best options to meet future needs in South County, where nearly all water is imported. The Doheny Ocean Desalination project has the added bonus of being more environmentally friendly than its Poseidon counterpart, which sucks in massive amounts of sea water and whatever is living in it. The Doheny facility would use advanced slant wells that protect marine life by drawing water from beneath the ocean floor, according to the South Coast Water District, which is considering the desalination technology that, it claims, environmentalists and state regulators prefer and would be cheaper to operate and maintain than Poseidon’s.

Groundwater accounts for 75 percent of the supply in North County, where effective management, capturing and storing rainwater behind Prado Dam, and purchasing water from a water-recycling project in Carson would be the most cost-effective and financially stable sources of new water, according to the study.

Michael Markus, general manager of the Fountain Valley-based Orange County Water District, whose board has consistently backed the Poseidon project, complains the MWDOC is telling member agencies which future water-supply projects to choose with the study’s rankings, which rates Poseidon at the bottom under various scenarios. MWDOC general manager Robert Hunter counters that the study simply evaluates each project, and it is up to each individual agency to make its own informed decision based on the findings.

Ray Hiemstra, associate director of Orange County Coastkeeper, a clean-water nonprofit that has been extremely critical of the Poseidon project, defends the rankings. “It is not surprising that proponents of some of the projects that did not rank well are calling for the ranking to be eliminated in the final report,” he writes in a letter to Hunter. “MWDOC should not bow to these narrow interests.”

Read the study at www.mwdoc.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/2018-FINAL-OC-Study-Report_Final-Report_02-01-2019-with-appendices.pdf.

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