top of page

The Poseidon Misadventure

Updated: Feb 3, 2023


After 22 years of challenging a proposed desalination plant at Huntington Beach, opponents of the ill-conceived Poseidon project prevailed in a 6:0 decision of the Coastal Commission all but sinking this project once and for all. [link to LA Times story].

CURE congratulates Conner Everts and the Southern California Water Project for its epic win despite enormous lobbying and legal efforts promoting Poseidon. Like all other water deals, CURE focuses on the long-term economic and environmental impacts relative to other options. In this case, the cost of an acre foot of Poseidon’s water was so expensive that none of the local water agencies agreed to purchase it. Through proper management and long-term planning, the Orange County Water District has ensured that this coastal California area has water availability more than sufficient for the needs of the region without investing more ratepayer monies.

The Coastal Commission’s decision came as a surprise given the increasingly loud cry of drought particularly by Governor Newsom. But the Coastal Commission looked at the cost of the water, location of the project, and long-term impacts and decided it was too costly. CURE questions why this analysis could not have been done decades ago before so much time and effort was invested by all sides. As Conner Everts pointed out to the Los Angeles Times, California is facing climate change. Talk of a cyclical drought no longer is relevant.

CURE continues to question the environmental and economic benefits of building large ocean desal in California at significant expense to rate payers when less environmental impactful and less expensive options are available. This is particularly the case in Huntington Beach – one of the best surf spots in Southern California.

As background, Poseidon corporation came to California in 1998, after failing to build a private ocean desalination plant in Florida. Poseidon proposed building a large plant and to sell water well below the then market rate.

Twenty years later, the true cost of desal is now known. Poseidon completed a large-scale plant in Carlsbad California for $1.4 billion at a cost of $2,500/AF. The plant, built in the height of the drought, has had operational problems, has failed to provide the promised water, and has spewed toxic discharge into the ocean. Meanwhile, water officials have been able to achieve far less expensive results through recycling and conservation. In other words, what looked economically viable years ago has proven to be a poor choice in today’s market.

Desal also has environmental impacts that cannot be easily mitigated. While other water solutions like recycling storm water runoff benefit the environment and the beach, desal kills fish eggs, larvae and plankton. The process reportedly generates water with high boron levels, a contaminant which reportedly has caused shrinking testicles.

Article written by Conner Everts, Los Angeles Watershed Alliance

with Malissa McKeith

See related news:


bottom of page