Diablo Canyon desalinated water distribution is dangerous
September 26, 2015
OPINION By BRAD SNOOK
Since Adam Hill has been a San Luis Obispo County supervisor, roughly 7 billion gallons of usable water has been discharged to the ocean from the Five Cities area.
Yet, instead of promoting emergency measures to conserve 3.8 million gallons of discharge per day, Adam Hill is spearheading an effort to distribute desalinated drinking water from Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant back to the Five Cities area.
Here’s how it would work: The water already paid for by Five Cities residents, already collected, already treated, and then discharged through an ocean outfall pipe in Oceano, would be mixed in the ocean, re-collected at Diablo Canyon, desalinated (and treated again), and pumped for miles through a costly distribution back to the Five Cities. As I stated at a recent Board of Supervisors meeting, this could only make sense after a few beers.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Existing county policy for New Water Supply states as follows:
Development of new water supplies should focus on efficient use of existing resources. Use of reclaimed water, inter-agency cooperative projects, desalination of contaminated groundwater supplies, and groundwater recharge projects should be considered prior to using imported water or seawater desalination, or dams and on-stream reservoirs.
Important questions the supervisors should ask before proceeding with this ridiculous plan:
- How many nuclear power plants supply drinking water to outside communities? From my research, the answer is “zero,” and the risk is enormous to our water supply and economy.
- How many seawater desalination distribution plans have been permitted by the Regional Water Quality Control Board or the California Coastal Commission, when the plan is in direct conflict with the county’s (or other applicant’s) long-standing policy and when the source may not be available in 10 years (If Diablo Canyon is not relicensed, or if open ocean intake is no longer permitted)?
- Where is the testimony of stakeholders from the Five Cities area who would support this plan?
- Where is the testimony from a purveyor who would distribute drinking water from a nuclear power plant to our community?
- And last but not least, is the introduction of seawater desalination going to open Pandora’s Box and induce widespread impacts on the quality of life in South County?
When reclaimed water is so abundant, why place unnecessary financial and environmental impacts from seawater desalination on county residents? This is why some have labelled the PG&E desalination plan a “Boondoggle.”
Recycled water is a measurable and manageable resource for local businesses and communities. Pismo Beach’s groundwater injection plan is already being permitted and implemented, and at full scale it will supply the same amount as shown in the PG&E desalination plan.
The county should throw its resources behind Pismo’s reclamation project, getting it to 100 percent reclamation as soon as possible. Elsewhere, locally reclaimed water from South SLO County Sanitation District should off-set groundwater and Lopez Lake use while being percolated or injected into aquifers to help prevent seawater intrusion.
Our Surfrider’s chapter asks the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors to reward communities who protect their vital water resources, who reduce, reuse, and recycle, and who limit their impacts on California’s shared resources. We should work together to promote balance and sustainability of our watersheds and our ocean environment.
Yes, our supervisors may be intoxicated by the potential of saving PG&E millions through re-purposing Diablo Canyon’s ocean intake and desalination system. However, there are safer and more economically feasible options available.
Please join the Surfrider Foundation in saying, “Thanks, but no thanks” to distribution of PG&E’s desalinated water.
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