As California's water crisis deepens, a one billion dollar desalination plant is set to go on-line near San Diego. Nathan Frandino reports.
Under thousands of tanks and pipes, workers in Carlsbad, California are putting the final touches on what some hope will be the state's answer to its three-year-old drought. This desalination plant is due to open in November, delivering up to 50 million gallons of water a day to San Diego County. It's a $1 billion investment that Poseidon Resources Senior Vice President Peter MacLaggan considers an insurance policy for consumers. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF POSEIDON WATER, PETER MACLAGGAN SAYING: "It's a new source of supply that will always be there and within about a decade's time it's expected that the traditional sources from Northern California and Colorado River will be comparable in price and thereafter this supply could be one of the lower cost supplies available to the San Diego region." The ongoing drought has forced tough new conservation measures, depleted reservoirs and raised the costs of importing fresh water from elsewhere. With no relief in sight, many are looking for as many sources of potable water as possible. Sandra Kerl works for the San Diego Water Authority, which commissioned the Carlsbad plant. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DEPUTY GENERAL MANAGER FOR SAN DIEGO WATER AUTHORITY SANDRA KERL SAYING: "A portfolio means that you have many options for meeting your supply needs and it's not all of your eggs in one basket." Critics of desalination cite its environmental drawbacks, such as harm to marine life from intake pipes that suck water into the plants. Matt O'Malley of the environmental non-profit San Diego Coastkeeper says there are cheaper options. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LEGAL AND POLICY DIRECTOR WITH SAN DIEGO COASTKEEPER MATT O'MALLEY SAYING: "So, we put ourselves in a cycle where we're paying more for water because we're paying more for energy and that energy is green house gas intense so that's why we think that we need to look more towards conservation and recycling as the priorities here." Poseidon has a second sea water desalting project under development near Los Angeles while another 15 to 17 plants are in design or planning phases around the state.