Diablo Canyon desalinated water distribution is dangerous

September 26, 2015

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power PlantOPINION 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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The CAVE people are at it again! That’s Californian’s Against Virtually Everything and we can thank them for lots of what’s wrong in this state.


The proposal for Diablo desal is for a mere 500 acre feet that needs to treated before it enters any supply lines. It will need to be piped to Avila, to intertie with the Lopez pipeline. The pipe from Ontario Rd. may need to be upsized to accomdate the floow. The pump over Ontario Ridge may need upsizing then piped to Lopez Lake to be stored where it becomes dirty again and will need treatment again before it goes back in the distribution system to be served.

The water use in the Northern Cities Management Area (Pismo, AG, GB, Oceano CSD, Rural and Applied Irrigation) total for 2103 was 10,722 acre feet. The little bit we are talking about and the high cost to permit (if you could), treat, pipe, pump, store and treat again, is too much to bother with.

Thanks, but no thanks.


This is a stall tactic by another no growther,just like the the other non profit friends of what ever that are sueing the Cambria CSD about another worthless piece of paper, this tactic would be to stall getting any water at al, if they did do a reclamation on the 5 Cities sewer plant it would take years to get up an drunning when Diablo water could be here very soon, but I see no reason why the outfall couldn’t be cleaned up in the near future and used then, the Diablo water would help out in the meantime.

Have no fear all these no growth groups will fight the Diablo line for any reason thay can come up with.


No this not what you are describing at all. I do not think Mr. Snook is a no growther, and he approaches everything rationally, not from any partisan perspective. This is not growth, as it is not a sustainable long term solution. This is a quid pro quo between PG&E and Hill.

I have no problem with growth. I would sooner enlarge reservoirs and kill off some endangered species. This is just a terrible idea.


Wait, it’s PG&E’s fresh water, and they want to be compensated for producing it? The nerve of some people!


If you folks think that PG&E does not have an ulterior motive for providing the county with desalinated water, you’re sadly mistaken. PG&E is attempting to avoid replacing its once-through cooling system with a cooling tower, and establishing additional dependency on their desalination system will provide a situation which makes it harder to get them to comply with the law. Anytime any requirement comes up for which compliance will potentially cut off that flow, they will have grounds for an exemption.

Any and ALL sources of water must come from sources which are sustainable over the LONG term, and not create dependencies on limited-life high-energy desalination plants. Recycled water, reservoir expansion, and increasing rainwater collection systems are the best, and cheapest options available for the long term,.

Additionally, it might be worth noting that there are ZERO nuclear power plants on this planet who provide the water produced by their desalination systems for public use. There WAS one, I believe in Uzbekistan, but it has since been shut down.


Pismo’s ground water program is some 5 years off and will cost about $20 million. Daily flows are 1mgd give or take, and only some of this is slated for recharge, not all. Sure SSLOCSD produces about 3mgd and it could be injected as well, however very costly process upgrades will be needed to meet regulations, you know the ones Wallace screwed us out of and took the millions to fund his Mexico trips. There was talk years ago of a pipeline to the base of Lopez to discharge water for AG use and to supplement and reduce the lake water usage but cost was prohibitive. Bottom line is our state under Moon beams direction has done nothing to increase water storage.They have skirted enviro studies to move forward with a train to nowhere, yet were dying of thirst, WTF I ask? Brown and the greens have removed damns and are pushing to remove more of them further reducing storage. Great idea, save a snail, kill a child or elder with dehydration. Calif is getting what it asked for, baron farm fields, empty damns and lakes so precious weeds and bugs can again thrive, no jobs, a diminishing AG industry, insane prices and the highest taxes in the country next to New York. Get your buckets out for the Y2K of winters, just dont get caught “harvesting rainwater” you might get arrested.


This deal should be done without regard for the people who try to stop everything. Californians need water! To turn down any source at this time is beyond foolish.


So we should ignore that it is inefficient and that there are ulterior motives at play when we do have other options? Sounds like a terrible way to approach policy.


How ironic “taxpayer” wants to stick California taxpayers with the most expensive and silly water “resource” out there, ocean desal. Evidently “taxpayer” is an advocate for higher taxes and fees. How refreshing!


Typical envirohippie nonsense. You can do all of the above. Maybe this is a bad idea, but not because it’s from a big bad, scary nuclear power plant. Even if the plant is delicensed you can still run the desal facility if need be.

And I’m very confused: are you saying that the only water that goes into the desal plant comes from five city rate payer water coming out? I’m not smart enough to understand that one.

The truth is you have no idea which solution would cause more environmental impact or which would cost more you and the rest of the dried up great grandmother for peas just want to shut the plant, put thousands of people out of work so that you don’t have to have your imagined cooties.

If you hate living near a nuclear plant, please, do us all a favor and move.


” I’m not smart enough to understand that one.”

We are wasting clean water by dumping it in the ocean. We need to use it to recharge groundwater whether or not we use the “scary” plant to desalinate some ocean water.

The PG&E desalination plant is going to “save us”, is an election ploy by Adam Hill and PG&E’s Tom Jones. Anything to get the guaranteed profit power plant relicensed.

The election will happen long before the pipeline is built, if ever.


I can’t speak to five cities but in Paso they dump treated water into river. Why? To recharge ground water.


I love the amount of B.S. dripping off of this!! It is cheaper to use retreated water? Really? Please show the stats!! Paso is considering use for golf courses etc., which is fine but it will cost money. They will (and have stated as such) have to put in a secondary delivery system (underground piping in case you don’t understand) for the water. Do you think that won’t cost millions?

Typical, cry about a project and stat the negatives while ignoring your own negs. that you propose. Nice spin pal.


P.S. Sounds like you got a head start on those beers you talked about.


Yeah, uh, are you not aware of the incredible costs associated with the energy, maintenance, and mitigation for desalination? It’s massive.


Obviously you don’t read my posts. I have commented on past articles talking about desal and am VERY aware of energy costs. In your haste to jump, you missed where I stated in regards to Paso I’M FINE WITH (reclaimed) IT!! My point, which you missed, is that the gentleman in his article is painting it like there is all costs on the desal side and none on the other. Hey let’s be fair and present an argument fairly.

Also when you are processing the waste and getting the by product effluent and treating it with chemicals etc. that costs what? Yes money.

Both process (desal or running of pipeline and treatment) will and DO cost money. Now the devil is in the details as to what is more cost effective.


Fair enough, it sounded like you were implying that the costs would be greater for recycling water when that is not the case. I do generally read your posts but don’t recall your previous comments on this issue, sorry.

See the comment I just posted for concerns beyond cost. But having done quite a bit of research on desalination, I have no doubt that it is by far the costlier choice. Also, because of the limited life of desalination plants, the long term costs stay high.


California does, in my opinion, need to research both. Yes reclaimed does need to be used but I think desal has benefits. Ocean is right next to us. To bring in sources (water) from other areas would require a LOT more infrastructure and costs, that I think desal could be cheaper. I think we need to keep everything on the table and explore costs on all and all options.


Water reuse is really cheap, compared to desal. You spread the treated sewage on the ground, it sinks through layers of dirt (clay, silt, sand) rich with microbes that further purify the water, let it sink into the underground aquifer, drill a well, and install a windmill to pump it back out. Just makes too much sense and is too green for brown spendthrift folks like Been There.

BTW, I’ve always been curious what you did when you were “there.” Explain, please, some day.


A windmill? What is this Little House on the Prairie? That’s fine, show me ANYWHERE in the county where we are using (Gov. not private) windmills for water pumping?

No problem green, I recycle, lawn is dead, energy use is minimal, keep driving to a minimum but unlike you type that think with your hearts, I think with my head.