Poseidon interested in exploring public-private partnership for desalination plant


The South Coast Water District’s proposal to build a desalination facility in Dana Point has drawn the interest of a company with an established presence in water treatment in Southern California.

Officials from Poseidon Water, the Boston-based company that proposes to build a controversial desalination facility up the coast in Huntington Beach, last week sent a letter to South Coast expressing the desire to pursue the prospects of a public-private partnership on the Doheny Ocean Desalination Project.

South Coast, which serves customers in South Laguna, Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente, owns a 30-acre plot of land near San Juan Creek that it hopes to use for a water treatment plant producing 4 million to 5 million gallons of water per day, with a possibility of increasing the output to 15 million gallons daily if needed.


“On a lifecycle cost and value-for-money basis, the [public-private partnership] delivery method can deliver the lowest risk-adjusted cost and greatest benefit to the district,” according to a letter signed by Peter MacLaggan, Poseidon’s senior vice president.

Such an arrangement “would shift the cost responsibility of the project to [Poseidon] during development and construction, while the district will only pay for water once it is delivered,” the letter said.

South Coast’s board is considering the benefits and drawbacks of owning and operating the facility versus partnering with a private agency, General Manager Andy Brunhart wrote in a email, adding that the district has held four public workshops on the Doheny project.

South Coast will hold another public workshop to enable its board to consider pros and cons of different methods to deliver water, Brunhart said. A meeting date has not been scheduled.

Experts say desalination would provide an additional source of water as the state endures its fifth straight year of drought.

South Coast imports 80% of its drinking water — from the Colorado River and Northern California sources. The remaining 20% comes from recycled and groundwater sources.

Under the proposal, crews would drill wells extending from Doheny State Beach to draw water from under the ocean floor rather than open water.

Design and construction of the Doheny desalination facility could cost $85 million to $90 million, the Coastline Pilot reported earlier this year.

Doheny would not be the first public-private partnership for Poseidon. The company partnered with the San Diego County Water Authority on a desalination facility in Carlsbad that can produce 54 million gallons of water per day, according to the letter. The plant opened in December.

The idea behind a public-private partnership is that a public agency, such as South Coast, would sign a long-term contract to purchase water from Poseidon, guaranteeing the company a steady revenue stream, Scott Maloni, vice president of project development, wrote in an email.

Poseidon is seeking permits from multiple regulatory agencies, including the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board and the California State Lands Commission, for changes to its seawater intake and discharge system for the Huntington Beach project, which could produce 50 million gallons of water per day, Maloni said.


Bryce Alderton,

Twitter: @AldertonBryce