New Stanford Report Reveals Desalination Has Limited Applications in California

Coastkeeper says research reinforces concerns over proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant

ORANGE COUNTY – May 24, 2016 – Orange County Coastkeeper says Stanford University’s latest report on the coastal and marine impacts of desalination projects in California highlights the serious deficiencies with Poseidon Water’s proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant. The report reveals that, outside of a few locations where its impacts can be minimized, desalination is unlikely to play a significant role in California’s water supply portfolio as a result of its high costs, energy demands and greenhouse gas emissions. The report also concludes that desalination is unlikely to relieve stress on freshwater ecosystems and would be an ineffective tool in reaching economic and environmental sustainability.

Coastkeeper says these conclusion are echoed in Orange County, where recent studies by the County’s water management agencies show there is no need for the water that would be produced by Poseidon’s proposed Huntington Beach facility.

“The proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant is the perfect example of an ineffective, poorly planned desalination project,” says Orange County Coastkeeper Executive Director Garry Brown. “We know the plant comes with billions of dollars of added costs to ratepayers over 50 years and significant environmental impacts to marine habitats — all for water that is simply not needed in Orange County.”

Stanford’s report recommends that California’s new desalination policy be supplemented by research and policies designed to identify locations along the coast where the impacts on the marine environment can most easily be minimized. Coastkeeper says the Huntington Beach location for the proposed plant is a poor choice — with limited options for building a plant the right way to minimize impacts — and alternative site studies should be conducted.

“If built, the Huntington Beach desalination plant would be the first built in California since the adoption of the statewide desalination policy — standards of which the Huntington Beach plant falls short,” says Brown. “If we chose to ignore academic research and allow irresponsible projects to be built, we set a bad precedent for the rest of California.”

Coastkeeper believes Orange County should apply the strategic and innovative tactics it’s known for to the region’s water supply options. Conservation, wastewater recycling (expansion of Orange County’s internationally awarded Groundwater Replenishment System) and stormwater capture are better for the environment, use less energy and are cost effective.

The Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment report collaborators include:

  • Center for Ocean Solutions
  • Water in the West
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • The Nature Conservancy

For more information, read this story on the impacts of the Poseidon-Huntington Beach desalination plant.


ORANGE COUNTY COASTKEEPER: Orange County Coastkeeper is a member of the International Waterkeeper Alliance, which has 236 different independent programs across 29 countries. Founded in 1999, the mission of Coastkeeper is to protect and promote sustainable water resources that are swimmable, drinkable, and fishable. Coastkeeper is a nonprofit clean water organization that serves as a proactive steward of our fresh- and saltwater ecosystems. We work collaboratively with diverse groups in the public and private sectors to achieve healthy, accessible, and sustainable water resources for the region. We implement innovative, effective programs in education, advocacy, restoration, research, enforcement, and conservation. For more information, visit or call 714-850-1965.