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The Carlsbad-Poseidon Water Purchase Agreement: At Least One HUGE Risk Assessment Short

Brine discharge plan could cost $200 million.
The San Diego County Water Authority is considering a “Water Purchase Agreement” (WPA) to buy the water produced by the proposed Poseidon ocean desalination project. The WPA is extremely long and complex. But at its core are assurances that the County Water Authority is protected from prices skyrocketing after the contract is signed, (as if it’s not too expensive from the start).

But they failed to explain one major risk facing the project – the State Water Resources Control Board is in the midst of developing enforceable guidelines for what desal facilities in California are allowed to do for their seawater intake and the brine discharge. And importantly, it may not be what Poseidon is hoping and planning for.

These “Ocean Plan amendments” aren’t even drafted yet – but they will be finished and adopted by January 2014. And Poseidon and the County Water Authority will have to comply with whatever the State decides.

Poseidon and the CWA are arguing for very lax rules – and they may win. But an expert science panel recommended technology for diluting the brine discharge that would cost approximately $200 million more than planned – according to Poseidon’s letters to the State. That expert recommendation could also win the debate.

So here’s the thing: if the expert scientists’ recommendation is made law in 2014, Poseidon’s own letter indicates their project may be financially infeasible. At the very least, the WPA would allow Poseidon to raise the cost of the water by 30% in the first 3 years of operation.

It’s a lose-lose proposition – either Poseidon is successful at arguing against the best technology to protect our precious marine life, or the price of the water goes through the roof. And it always shocks us a little when we’re accused of “obstructing” this project, when all we’ve ever done is point out the risks to our coast and ocean (and now the potential cost of protecting it). You’d think they’d thank us instead of badmouthing us.

See the expert science panel’s recommendations, as well the letter from Poseidon’s lawyers to the State Water Resources Control Board.

The above image is used courtesy of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences.

Tell SDCWA not to sign the WPA!