Desalination Plants in California Shut Down Amid Historic Water Crisis

Ken Wolter /

If you don’t live in the American West, you might not know that those on that side of the country are experiencing yet another crisis. This one has to do with water and the lack thereof. As I am sure you know, most Western states tend to be drier than those along the eastern coast anyway, with more than a few all too familiar with yearly droughts and dry spells.

However, this year has been even more dry than normal, causing states to consider numerous water preservation and reservation techniques. However, the quest has been quite difficult with millions of people who need clean water to live.

And that is precisely why a recent decision by California regulators and environmentalists is so baffling.

As you know, California remains to be one of the driest states in the nation, with thousands and thousands of acres that turn into near desert-like conditions in the heat and dryness of summer. But because they sit right along the Pacific Ocean, it’s not like they are out of options.

Enter Poseidon Water and their plan to open a large desalination plant in Huntington Beach, which lies about thirty miles south of Los Angeles in one of the driest areas of the state. If you remember from science class, desalination is the process by which ocean water is purified and treated to make it usable for drinking and agriculture.

If constructed, the plant would have provided some 50 or so million gallons of clean drinking water every single day, according to Reuters.

But I say “would” because in late May, despite raging wildfires and increased water shortages, the state said “no” to the idea of putting in a plant that could provide them with the solution to one of their larger issues at the moment, as well as provide hundreds more jobs for that area.

Why? Well, suffice it to say that environmentalists were too concerned about the dangers the plant might cause to marine life in the area. Now, I am by no means saying that marine life isn’t important, but if they can be protected while also moving forward, why not?

The question becomes, at what cost, though. At what point are we willing to ignore the plight of the human race for the sake of possibly putting some fish at risk?

To the environmentalists who caused a stink about this plant, I guess the answer to that is now. According to Reuters, the California Coastal Commission was convinced by a number of environmentalists’ complaints about the desalination plant plan and so voted against it.

In fact, those state regulators voted unanimously against it.

Naturally, once the verdict was in, those environmentalists celebrated. Meanwhile, Poseidon was left in a state of awe and confusion. As the company said in a statement, “California continues to face a punishing drought, with no end in sight. We firmly believe that this desalination project would have created a sustainable, drought-tolerant source of water.”

And yet, the state’s seemingly one and only solution was shot down…

No, that doesn’t mean that the ocean is the state’s only water supply. In fact, California is privy to the largest swath of water rights to the Colorado River, according to the 1922 Colorado River Compact. The agreement divides the river’s uses between seven signatories or states. As a result, California gets 4.4 million acre-feet of that water annually.

And yet, that is not nearly enough to meet the state’s needs. Moreover, because California is the only state of the seven to border the ocean, it only seems reasonable that their leaders would look to that water source for their needs and not a river that six other states also have to share.

But, of course, that’s not how California leaders apparently see it.

Instead, they’d like to continue using up their portion of the Colorado River, which because of the great amounts of water taken from it over the years, has forced Lake Mead, the largest water reservoir in the West, to shrink by massive proportions.

While the fate of marine life in the ocean is apparently California’s problem, the future survival of six other states also experiencing drought conditions and all that live within their borders are not…