How would desalinated water be distributed? Water district decides to look at 5 of 8 options


The Orange County Water District unanimously decided Wednesday to further explore five of eight water distribution options related to Poseidon Water’s proposed ocean desalination plant in Huntington Beach.

The highly contested project is expected to produce 50 million gallons of desalinated water a day.

The vote was 9 to 0. Board First Vice President Denis Bilodeau was absent.


According to the term sheet agreed to by the Orange County Water District and Poseidon, district staff was tasked with analyzing various ways the desalinated water could be transported from the facility, which if approved would be built next to the AES natural gas power plant on Newland Street and Pacific Coast Highway, to users in the district’s service area.

OCWD is using the document to determine whether purchasing water from Poseidon would be worthwhile. It calls for the company to be responsible for financing, constructing and operating the plant, while the water district would be responsible for financing, constructing and operating the distribution systems.

A few board members were interested in learning more about two options that would piggyback on the proposed final expansion of the OCWD’s Ground Water Replenishment System, which purifies treated wastewater from the Orange County Sanitation District.

The proposed expansion could bump the systems’ production from 100 million to 130 gallons of water per day, but the water district would have to identify additional injection wells to store the water.

Two options call for using the same pipelines that the expanded system would use, though a new pumping station would be required near the Burris Basin in Anaheim.

The difference between the two options is that one looks to inject water into a well at Centennial Park in Santa Ana that is in the process of being built. The other option would not store water in that well but instead would connect the desalination plant to a turnout pipe that goes to the cities of Huntington Beach and Newport Beach.

The estimated costs of these two options range from $131 million to $160 million.

Sandy Scott-Roberts, a principal engineer for the water district, explained to board members that should they choose either of these options, costs would rise on the expansion of its replenishment system from about $70 million to about $200 million.

“If these [wells] are designated for desalinated water, additional injection wells will need to be added to the [Ground Water Replenishment System] project in order to take in the 30 million gallons of water per day [from the expansion],” she said.

Two other options involve constructing pipes that would connect to the Ground Water Replenishment System and to a water line owned by the West Orange County Water Board for the sale of water to Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Seal Beach, Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, the Golden State Water Co. and south Orange County agencies.

The final option that board members want to explore further would connect the desalination plant to the West Orange County Water Board pipe lines.

The other three options, which all involved distributing the water to various wells in the county, were immediately dismissed by board members because of the cost of building the new pipelines and concerns that the quality of the water currently in the basin would be jeopardized.

The cost to the district of each of those three options was estimated at more than $300 million.

Board Second Vice President Philip Anthony said water produced by the desalination plant would be saltier than the water produced by the Ground Water Replenishment System.

“Ocean desal water is not nearly as pure as our [Ground Water Replenishment System] water,” he said.

Though board member Jan Flory voted in favor of continuing the analyses of the distribution options, she said the entire negotiation process between the water district and Poseidon has been a waste of time.

She said what is needed is an analysis of alternative water sources, such as storm water reclamation and increased conservation efforts.

“Let Poseidon go out there and do this project on their own,” she said. “This district has the capability of building such a plant on its own after we finish the final expansion [on the Ground Water Replenishment System].”