Nov 21, 2019

Desalination Facility in El Segundo, Calif., Plan in the Works

The West Basin Municipal Water District (WBMWB) will continue pursuing plans to build a $500 million ocean water desalination facility in El Segundo, Calif.,.

Desalination Facility in El Segundo, Calif., Plan in the Works

The West Basin Municipal Water District (WBMWB) will continue pursuing plans to build a $500 million ocean water desalination facility near the El Segundo Generating Station along Vista Del Mar, despite backlash from environmental groups.

There is currently no funding and construction timeline for the project, according to the Argonaut News.

The West Basin Municipal Water District serves Marina del Rey, Malibu, Culver City, West Hollywood and most of the South Bay. 

Environmental nonprofit groups such as Heal the Bay, Los Angeles Waterkeeper and the Surfrider Foundation believe desalination is both costly and ecologically damaging to Southern California’s water supply.

“We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but we do know that we’re entering uncharted territory with regard to water supplies and climate change,” said Scott Houston, president of West Basin’s Board of Directors. “So we can maintain the status quo and wait until the next drought and then react, or we can prepare and evaluate our options.”

Environmental groups believe desalination would risk harming sea life and consume a massive amount of greenhouse-gas generating electricity, according to the Argonaut News

Nancy Shrodes, Heal the Bay’s associate director of policy and outreach believes the agency should focus on existing water recycling efforts and tap into voter-approved funding for stormwater capture, reported the Argonaut News.

Conservation groups are also concerned about desalination pumps drawing grunion and garibaldi eggs into its filtration system. 

“One inch of rainfall is 10 billion gallons of water,” said Shrodes. “By capturing that, we take advantage of an existing resource without additional energy costs and also make sure we’re cleaning it up.”

More than 60 people participated in a demonstration against West Basin’s desalination plan before the agency’s board meeting, reported the Argonaut.

“In my 30 years working on water policy I’ve never seen anything more methodical,” said WBMWD general manager Patrick Sheilds. “We’re trying to diversify our water portfolio. It will also reduce our reliance on imported water. We need a local, drought-proof water supply.”

“Diversification [of water sources] does not mean pursuing the most harmful methods,” countered Kelly Clark, an attorney for Los Angeles Waterkeeper. “If West Basin was serious about climate change, they would not have spent 20 years pursuing the most harmful plan for climate change.”

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