The Orange County Water District’s mission is to provide the 2.4 million people it serves with a reliable, adequate, high-quality water supply at the lowest reasonable cost in an environmentally responsible manner. Because of its dependence on climate-challenged, heavily regulated imported water, OCWD’s policy is to develop new local and drought-proof sources of water. In the process of doing this, OCWD has identified the proposed Huntington Beach Desalination Project as the single largest source of new local drinking water supply available to the region. Thus, in May of 2015, OCWD entered into a Term Sheet with Poseidon Water for the purchase of the entire 50 million gallons a day the plant will produce.
What is essential to understand is that despite its landmark wastewater recycling program, which is affected by drought, Orange County is a semi-arid region that currently doesn’t have enough local drinking water resources to meet current or future population demands. The groundwater basin is at 38 percent capacity despite recent rainfall and record GWRS Basin recharge. One wet winter does not mitigate the need for a project that will provide long-term water supply reliability. OCWD is wisely considering adding the drought-proof water the Huntington Beach plant would produce to its water portfolio.
Being mindful that the interests of the Latino community on local water issues has historically been overlooked, the William C. Velasquez Institute undertook in 2016 a survey of Orange County Latino voters regarding the drought and water reliability. The survey found that both were of high concern, with three-in-four supporting desalination. WCVI followed this up, in May of 2017, by sponsoring a state-wide poll, conducted by Tulchin Research, that found California voters overwhelmingly support seawater desalination, across all demographic groups. This poll was verified in July of 2017 by research conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California which found that state-wide 67 percent of Californians favor desalination, increasing to 78 percent when respondents were presented with both anti and pro desalination arguments.
When put in the context of Orange County’s, and Southern California’s, dependence on imported water, climate change and the threat of future severe droughts, the Latino community’s support for desalination makes sense. Orange County and Southern California receive its imported water from two increasingly tenuous…