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Top Stories Of 2009: Water Shortages

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Video published December 29, 2009 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: KPBS Environment Reporter Ed Joyce predicts severe water shortages to come in 2010 after the fourth straight year of drought.

GLORIA PENNER (Host): Water, or the lack of it, was a hot topic in 2009 and predictions are that water shortages will become more severe. Joining me now to talk about the region’s water woes is KPBS environment reporter, Ed Joyce. Why was water such an important issue for the region?

ED JOYCE (KPBS Environment Reporter): Well, again, fourth year of drought in all of California, problems with the delta, which is one of our main sources of water in Southern California and certainly in San Diego County, and the battle over how to fix that broken system. And there were restrictions on pumping from the delta, which also restricted our supply. So the combination of judicial restrictions and Mother Nature put a pinch on our supply this year.

PENNER: Ok, help me out with this one. One partial solution to the water problem is to remove salt from seawater to make it drinkable. Why then is the desalination plant in Carlsbad so controversial?

JOYCE: Well it’s controversial from environmentalists’ point of view. Certainly a lot of the local water agencies and elected officials have all come out in support of this desalination project in Carlsbad. Environmentalists say it uses too much energy to produce that water. They're also concerned that we’re putting a public resource in the hands of a private corporation processing that seawater and making it into potable water for use to use and then in turn selling the product that they produce.

PENNER: So what is its status now?

JOYCE: The project has been approved. It has a costal development permit, the developer, Poseidon Resources, has kind of moved some dirt around but they're still in the process of getting finance the construction to build the plant. But it’s also been challenged legally by environmental groups on several grounds. And that process or that legal challenge is still working its way through the court system. And they also, the California Costal Commission, wants the company to come back and amend its permit to show that its greenhouse gas emissions that would be generated by the operation of the plant are going to be more than they initially said they would be.

PENNER: Lots of hoops to go through.

JOYCE: Lots of hoops.

PENNER: So this year, 2010, we’re not going to see it online.

JOYCE: No. They expect that the earliest it would be online – if it gets through all the legal processes and legal challenges – would be 2012.

PENNER: And what about 2010? Do you think water is going to continue to be a problem?

JOYCE: It will. We’re in a fourth year drought and maybe we’ll get some much needed snow and rainfall this year, but you don’t make up for four dry years. The state’s major reservoirs are about 40% of capacity. Some of those are filling up a little bit now, and probably will as the winter goes on. But you can't make up for that lack of supply from Mother Nature. And the peripheral canal issue is on the ballot in November, so that’ll be something. That much needed water bond to fix the canal and solve all those problems.

PENNER: Eleven billion dollars?

JOYCE: That’s a lot of money.

PENNER: Oh my. So what do you think is going to be the big story for 2010?

JOYCE: I think the continued water problem and the fight to get that water bond passed. You know voters still have to approve a portion of that spending and that comes in November. Between now and then I'm sure we’ll hear a lot from water agencies and elected officials about the need to have that bond measure passed in November.

PENNER: Alright. And in terms of our water supply here, I mean whether we have more rains, more snow, or water we’re going to have some continued mandatory conservation?

JOYCE: I think the conservation measures will continue through 2010. And even with whatever we get from Mother Nature that will continue. And the conservation effort has been successful in San Diego County.

PENNER: It has.

JOYCE: People are doing a great job.

PENNER: Yeah, and we’re patting ourselves on the back.

JOYCE: We have to keep it up.

PENNER: Thank you very much, Ed Joyce.

JOYCE: Thank you, Gloria.

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