Commentary: Huntington Beach Seawater Desalination Plant will receive $585 million in credit assistance

Emmanuel Laura, 13, holds a sign supporting his opinion of Poseidon desalination water facility prior to a California State Lands Commission meeting.
(Scott Smeltzer)

Orange County has long been recognized as a worldwide leader for developing state-of-the-art, environmentally sensitive new water supply technology, and we are not resting on our laurels.

Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded the Orange County Water District with a $135 million, low-interest Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan that will help complete the final expansion of the Groundwater Replenishment System project.

The WIFIA loan will save ratepayers up to $16 million compared to municipal bonds. Project construction will create 700 jobs over four years.

This month, it was announced that the Huntington Beach Seawater Desalination Plant will receive $585 million in credit assistance under the EPA’s WIFIA program.

OCWD sponsored the Huntington Beach Desalination Project’s WIFIA application and has a term sheet to consider purchasing the water produced by the proposed plant.

One of the barriers to developing all-new water supplies, including seawater desalination, has been capital costs, however, this WIFIA credit assistance program will help reduce the cost of building the project.

Consistent with the water purchase terms between OCWD and Poseidon, the benefits of the lower-cost financing will accrue to the ratepayers in the form of lower-cost water and help pave the way for a new, locally controlled drought-proof supply of drinking water for Orange County.

While Orange County is proud of the strides we’ve taken to become more water independent, we’re still reliant on imported water from Northern California and the Colorado River for about half of our water supply.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is poised to unveil his climate-resilient water plan. In Orange County, we’re ahead of the game. The drinking water that would be produced by the Huntington Beach Seawater Desalination plant is identified in the Orange County Water District’s Groundwater Management Plan as the largest local supply available to Orange County. The water produced will be climate resilient and 100% carbon neutral.

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Anaheim Councilman Jordan Brandman is on the Orange County Water District Board of Directors.

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