Proposed desalination plant to come to Huntington Beach

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Drinking water from the ocean was a dream that came true in San Diego County on Monday, and Huntington Beach may be next.

With a ceremonial turn of the faucet, fresh water officially began to flow at Poseidon Water's desalination plant in Carlsbad.

The largest desalination plant in the western hemisphere cost $1 billion, and is capable of pumping out 50 million gallons of drinkable water a day.

"We're celebrating a new water supply from the Pacific Ocean that is not dependent on snowpack nor rainfall," said Carlos Riva, CEO of Poseidon Water.

The plant takes in ocean water and uses reverse osmosis to remove the salt, making it safe to drink.

The San Diego county water authority signed a 30-year deal with Poseidon to buy the water, which amounts to nearly 10 percent of the region's need.

"It is here, local, drought-proof and blended with all of our other water supplies. It's economical," said Mark Weston of the San Diego Water Authority Board of Directors.

The process is expensive and will cost every household about 5 more dollars each month. The water authority said it's worth it, especially during a drought.

Poseidon officials said the success of this plant could lead to others opening around the state.

"We now have demonstrated the capability of producing municipal scale quantities of water from the Pacific Ocean," stated Peter MacLaggan of Poseidon Water.

Despite some positives, not everyone has agreed with tapping the ocean. Members of the Surfrider Foundation, such as Julia Chunn-Heer, worry the plant will keep people from conserving like they should.

"We often hear, 'Why worry about the drought, why worry about water?' We're next to the largest reservoir in the world - the Pacific Ocean. The ocean is not an infinite resource," she said.

The group is also concerned with the plant's greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts on marine life.

With the San Diego plant up and running, Surfrider's are now focusing their concerns on Poseidon's proposed plant in Huntington Beach, which could soon break ground.

The company said it will wrap up the permitting process the first half of next year, and then it will head into construction late 2016. They expect the plant to be operational by 2020.
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