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Final Vote On Poseidon Desal Plant Could Be This Week

Aired 11/27/12 on KPBS News.

The Poseidon water desalination plant, that’s been debated for a decade, is up for a vote this Thursday.

This week could be a decisive one for San Diego water agencies struggling to find the best way to avoid future water shortages. The Poseidon seawater desalination plant in Carlsbad has been debated for years, and it is up for a final vote before the County Water Authority on Thursday.

The desalination project is located at the Encina Power Station in the City of Carlsbad.
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Above: The desalination project is located at the Encina Power Station in the City of Carlsbad.

If approved, the plant's desalinated water could provide 7 per cent of San Diego’s water within a decade. But it would also add $5 or $6 to the average monthly water bill; maybe more.

Ann Tartre is Director of the Equinox Center, a non profit that focuses on a sustainable quality of life for San Diego’s future. She said desalination is energy intensive so it adds to the region’s carbon footprint, but it is a drought-proof water supply.

“I think it will play some role in our water portfolio,” she said, “The question is when and how much. It’s obviously the most expensive source of water that we have, so that’s a concern for ratepayers.”

Critics like the Surfrider Foundation and the Coast Law Group , say the region should first consider more conservation and water recycling, otherwise known as indirect potable reuse. They point to lower carbon emissions, less damage to marine life and lower costs. Desalination is currently two or three times the cost of imported water.

But Chris Cate of the San Diego’s Taxpayers Association believes the Poseidon desalination project is worth the higher cost.

“Even though imported water is cheap, it’s not reliable," Cate said. “And whether it be desal or indirect potable reuse, all those things are going to have an additional cost associated with it. We want to make sure that investment is made now so we are ready moving forward. We want to be in the position where we can control our own destiny.”

The City of Carlsbad will vote Tuesday whether to support the project. Oceanside has voted to support the regional water authority, the CWA, to enter into a contract with Poseidon, but has voted against entering into an individual contract with the company.

All 24 water agencies, members of the San Diego County Water Authority will have a vote on whether to give Poseidon the go ahead.

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