Since Adam Hill has been a San Luis Obispo County supervisor, about 7 billion gallons of useable water has been discharged into the ocean from the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District, Pismo Beach and Avila Beach wastewater treatment plants. Yet, instead of promoting emergency measures to conserve 3.8 million gallons of discharge per day, Hill is spearheading efforts to distribute desalinated drinking water from Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant to the Five Cities area.
Here’s how it would work: Water already paid for by Five Cities residents, already collected, already treated and then discharged through an outfall pipe in Oceano would be mixed in the ocean, re-collected at Diablo Canyon, desalinated and pumped for miles through costly distribution back to the Five Cities. From a resource planning standpoint, this could only make sense after a few beers.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Existing county policy for new water supplies states: “Development of new water supplies should focus on efficient use of existing resources. Use of reclaimed water, interagency 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 onstream reservoirs.”
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Important questions 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?
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?
Is the introduction of seawater desalination going to open Pandora’s box and induce widespread impacts on quality of life in South County?
With reclaimed water so abundant, why place unnecessary financial and environmental impacts from seawater desalination on county residents? This is why some have labeled the PG&E desalination plan a “boondoggle.” Recycled water is a measurable and manageable resource for local communities. Pismo Beach’s groundwater injection plan at full scale 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 the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District should offset groundwater and Lopez Lake use while being percolated or injected into aquifers to help prevent seawater intrusion.
Our Surfrider Foundation chapter asks supervisors to reward communities that protect their vital water 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 repurposing 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.