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Conservation Vs. Ocean Desalination: Pro-Desal Director Pushes False Conservation Stats

By John Earl

Part 4 of a series: part 1; part 2; part 3

In a January 26 Facebook post,  Mesa Water  and Orange County Water District’s (OCWD) dual board member, Shawn Dewane, proudly announced President Donald Trump’s decision to list Poseidon Resources’ proposed Huntington Beach ocean desalination plant as a “Top 50 Nation Priority Project.”

I am proud to be an advocate for pure, plentiful and affordable water supply for our community,” he declared.

Dewane’s words were telling of the ideological anti-conservation foundation upon which the Poseidon proposal rests.

Director claims conservation is more expensive.
Mesa Water/OCWD director, Shawn Dewane, uses Facebook to argue, incorrectly, that conservation is the most expensive water source and that its costs could have already paid for the proposed Poseidon ocean desalination plant.

It is important to change the mindset from scarcity to surplus, and this project [the Poseidon desalination plant] is part of that vision,” he wrote.

Contrary to popular belief,” Dewane claimed, “conservation does not come for free and in fact, prices have risen enough because of demand reduction [during the drought] that we could have paid for this entire project.” (emphasis added)

In a later (April 19) Facebook post, Dewane elaborated on that theme, speaking of water-use restrictions imposed by the state during the recent drought, which officially ended April 6.

The truth is that the demand reduction accounted for a roughly 30% increase in the cost of ground water to the retail producers in the Orange County Water District are[a], which is passed along to the consumers. That same price increase would have paid for all of the water produced by the Poseidon project. Instead of a new water source, we simply got higher rates and no additional supply. Conservation is the most expensive source of water.” (emphasis added)

Are Dewane’s anti-conservation assertions correct? Mostly, they are not. Let’s examine them:

  • Dewane’s claim: that “we could have paid for the entire [Poseidon ocean desalination] project” with the amount of money collected from water price increases due to “demand reduction” created by state-imposed conservation measures during the drought.
    • Analysis: The estimated cost of the Poseidon project is $1 billion. In the fiscal year, 2014 – 2015, OCWD’s 19 member-agencies pumped 305,259 acre-feet (af) from the groundwater basin, according to staff reports. The following year, they pumped 281,750 af, or 23,509 af less water. OCWD’s 19 member-agencies would have to collectively pay $1,059 per af or $24,896,031 for imported water to make up for the revenue loss from the state-imposed restrictions. If those agencies were to apply that difference as a down payment for the desalination plant, they would still be $975,103,969 short. At that rate, it would take them about 40 years to pay for the plant, assuming that costs wouldn’t rise, which they would.
  • Dewane’s claim: that the replenishment assessment (RA) increase that OCWD charged its member-agencies to make up for revenue loss for conservation (the “roughly 30 percent increase”) “would have paid for all the water produced by the Poseidon project.”
    • Analysis: From 2015 to 2017, the RA rose from $322 af to $445 af, by 38 percent or $123 af. The OCWD predicts that its 2.4 million service-area residents will use 303,000 af of water for the fiscal year 2017 to 2018. For that amount of water, the $123 price increase comes to a total of about $37.3 million. The cost of a year’s worth of Poseidon desalination water (about 50,000 usable af of 56,000 af) would be (based on Poseidon’s nearly identical Carlsbad plant) about $2,500 af or $125 million.
  • Dewane’s claim: “Instead of a new water source [Poseidon’s desalination plant] we simply got higher rates and no additional supply.”
    • Analysis: The quickest way to increase water supplies in the Orange County water basin is by reducing pumping, as the OCWD chart (below) indicates. The Poseidon project would give a “new” source of water, but no more water, except a small amount (on paper only) during an extreme drought. That’s because for Poseidon to receive the $400 million subsidy it needs from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to build the desalination plant (without it, Poseidon says, the plant can’t be built), the water Poseidon produces must replace an equal amount of imported water. That replaced imported water would be sold to water agencies outside of the OCWD service area, at a lower rate than Poseidon water, courtesy of OCWD ratepayers.
  • Dewane’s claim:  that conservation is the most expensive source of water. See part 2 and part 3 of this series.
This OCWD options chart shows that lowering the basin pumping percentage (BPP) refills the basin at far less cost than ocean desalination (not shown), estimated to be from $1,900 af to $2,500 af (currently at Poseidon’s nearly identical Carlsbad desalination plant).

 

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Conservation Vs. Ocean Desalination: Poseidon’s Point Man Spins Alternative Water Facts

By John Earl
Part 3 in a series: Part 1; Part 2

The Mesa Water District and the Orange County Water District’s dual board member, Shawn Dewane, loves to spin alleged factoids comparing conservation as a water source to the billion-dollar ocean desalination plant that Poseidon Resources wants to build in Huntington Beach.

Dewane plays to his political base, hence his occasional appearance on Costa Mesa Public Square (CMPS), the Facebook page where he reigns as the (mostly) unquestioned authority on all water matters, especially Poseidon.

Facebook post by Shawn Dewane
OCWD/Mesa Water Board director Shawn Dewane posting on Facebook.

You can scroll down the CMPS page and see a series of misleading or false assertions made by Dewane related to Poseidon’s proposed project.

For example, on CMPS last April, Dewane posted that “The facts are that Conservation (sic) is the most expensive “source” of water and hurts the poor the most.”

But Dewane’s assertion is false.

Last October, the Pacific Institute, a nonpartisan think-tank that uses “science-based” research to influence “efforts in developing sustainable water policies” worldwide, issued a comprehensive report that analyzes all of California’s water management options (“Cost of Alternative Water Supply and Efficiency Options in California”).

The report concluded that using “urban water conservation and efficiency measures” is the most cost-effective way to meet future water needs and that ocean desalination is the most expensive form of water management.

The study found that, over time, many conservation-efficiency measures save money by creating a negative cost. A more efficient food-steamer, for example, saves 53,000 gallons of water and costs minus $14,000 per acre-foot per year.

By comparison, the cost of water now produced by Poseidon’s Carlsbad ocean desalination plant (nearly identical to its proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant) is plus $2,500 per acre-foot.

If OCWD’s 19 member agencies cut their basin pumping percentage (the amount of water they take from the groundwater basin vs. from more expensive imported water) from 75 percent to 65 percent to conserve water, the replenishment assessment (RA) charged by OCWD to refill the basin (with imported water) and cover fixed costs, would increase by $106 for a total of $508 per acre-foot, according to a OCWD staff report.

That’s about a fifth of what Poseidon charges now in Carlsbad.

Without the Huntington Beach Poseidon project, the RA will go up to $571 an acre foot by 2022; with Poseidon, it will go up to $830 per acre foot.

Comparing the cost of Poseidon water (at the most likely near-future rate) to the cost of the same amount of imported water that OCWD would buy within a year gives a clear-cut picture of the relative costs of conservation and ocean desalination.

The Poseidon plant would produce about 50,000 acre-feet of usable desalinated water per year. At a cost of $2,500 per acre-foot, that comes to $125 million.

The cost of untreated imported water, which the OCWD uses to refill the basin (aside from rainfall percolation), is about $746 per acre foot—or about $37 million per year for 50,000 acre-feet.

The cost of treated imported water, the water OCWD agencies would buy on their own to make up for pumping less groundwater, is $1,059 per acre-foot—or about $53 million per year for 50,000 acre-feet.

By comparing the real costs of desalinated ocean water to the costs of water conservation, it is clear that Dewane’s assertion that conservation is the most expensive source of water is false.

Next: I will look at Shawn Dewane’s claim that state-imposed water restrictions during the drought caused a water price increase that “would have paid for all of the water produced by the Poseidon project” and that “Instead of a new water source, we simply got higher rates and no additional supply.”

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Conservation Vs. Ocean Desalination: Dual Water Board Director is Poseidon’s Point Man

By John Earl

Shawn Dewane of Costa Mesa is the free-marketeer point man for Poseidon Resources, the water dealer that wants to combine public and private funds to build a $1 billion ocean desalination plant in Huntington Beach.

Shawn Dewane
Shawn Dewane at a OCWD Board of Directors meeting. Photo: John Earl

The project would be built under the auspices of the Orange County Water District(OCWD), which manages the county’s groundwater basin and provides 2.4 million north-county residents with 75 percent of their water.

Voters elected Dewane to the OCWD Board of Directors in 2010. Continue reading Conservation Vs. Ocean Desalination: Dual Water Board Director is Poseidon’s Point Man

The Ideological War Behind Poseidon’s Proposed Desalination Plant

By John Earl

Underlying the long-running battles between proponents and opponents of the proposed Poseidon Resources ocean desalination plant is an ideological war between two roughly defined factions: conservationists and free-marketeers.

The Orange County Water District (OCWD), which manages the Santa Ana River and the Orange County Groundwater Basin (a collection of aquifers containing 60 million acre-feet of water), is ground-zero in that war.

(The OCWD supplies 75 percent of the drinking water for 2.4 million residents of north Orange County) Continue reading The Ideological War Behind Poseidon’s Proposed Desalination Plant

Breaking: HB City Councilmember Will Replace Hoskinson Tonight

By John Earl

Huntington Beach Council-member Erik Peterson confirmed to the Surf City Voice by email this morning that Michael Hoskinson, his representative on the Planning Commission for the past two years, has resigned and will be replaced at tonight’s city council meeting.

Rumors of Hoskinson’s resignation have circulated since December 13 when he announced that he would not attend a Planning Commission meeting scheduled that night.

But Hoskinson told the Voice by Facebook Messenger that he did not resign. Continue reading Breaking: HB City Councilmember Will Replace Hoskinson Tonight

Surf City Commissioner Pushes Jewish-Marxist Conspiracy Theory

By John Earl

In his “darker days,” Michael Hoskinson thought seriously about building a 10 by 10 shack in Montana to write his manifesto. “Like the Unabomber did,” he told a Tea-Party Internet show.

HB Planning Commissioner Michael Hoskinson “likes” anti-Semitic conspiracy video uploaded by a white supremacist. City Councilmember Erik Peterson, who appointed Hoskinson to the PC, called the photo “disconcerting.”

I was headed into the darkness,” he recalled.

But he met the woman of his life and married her. “And she showed me that there is more to life than the downside. And everything ramped up from there.”

Today Hoskinson is a Tea-Party organizer, sells real estate, and sits on the Huntington Beach Planning Commission.

The latter was his reward for helping to elect Tea-Party favorite, Erik Peterson, to the city council in a 2014 sweep that knocked off two favored incumbents. Continue reading Surf City Commissioner Pushes Jewish-Marxist Conspiracy Theory

Mesa Water on Conservation: In Cuba maybe, but not here

By John Earl

To the five elected directors of the Mesa Water District, conservation is a Trojan horse, unleashing Cuban-style authoritarianism, drop by drop.

The answer to the worst California drought in 500 years, they say, is to sell more water and build more ocean desalination plants.

“The solution to drought is water,” opined Director Fred Bockmiller during a recent (Nov. 10) Mesa workshop. Conservation doesn’t solve the lack of water, he reasoned, “It just means you don’t use it.”

In 2014, after three years of severe drought and foot-dragging by the state’s 400 water agencies, Governor Jerry Brown mandated state-wide conservation standards designed to achieve a 25 percent reduction in overall water use.

The Governor’s plan increased water savings by 28 percent at little if any inconvenience to Orange County residents. Continue reading Mesa Water on Conservation: In Cuba maybe, but not here

Ka-Ching! Tardy Orange County Water District Directors Rake the Cash

By John Earl

Director Steven Sheldon called me out at the August 24, 2016 meeting of the Orange County Water District Board of Directors. 

He did so after I spoke during public comments about habitually tardy directors, including him.

Sheldon asked me a question. When I tried to answer, he got angry and cut me off, arguing that I didn’t know what I was talking about.

I’m going to answer his question, but first some background.

OCWD directors receive $250 per meeting, even if they arrive late and/or leave early, for up to 10 meetings per month at $2,500 per month or $30,000 per year.

Ka-ching! Continue reading Ka-Ching! Tardy Orange County Water District Directors Rake the Cash

Petition: The Orange County Water District Should Livestream its Public Meetings

By John Earl

The purpose of this petition is to request that the Orange County Water District Board of Directors provide live Internet broadcasting and video archiving of all of the District’s public meetings.

{Sign the petition here}

OCWD clowns
A clip from a video that shows OCWD directors Steven Sheldon (holding phone on left) and Roman Reyna (grinning on the right) clowning around while others concentrate on the meeting.

To promote open government and citizen participation in the governing process, all but two cities in Orange County have for years provided “livestreaming” of their public meetings. The South Coast Water District in Dana Point also provides livestreaming of its meetings.

The OCWD manages the Santa Ana River groundwater basin and operates the largest waste-water purification system in the world. It supplies 75 percent of the water used by 2.4 million residents living in 19 cities in north Orange County. Continue reading Petition: The Orange County Water District Should Livestream its Public Meetings

Poseidon Jokes and Mesa Water Laughs Over Proposed Tax Increase for ‘Privately Funded’ Desal Project

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

Orange County taxpayers may have to pay a lot more for a $1 billion Huntington Beach ocean desalination plant if the Mesa Water District gets its way.

For the past decade the developer, Poseidon Resources, has promised taxpayers they won’t have to pay a cent for construction of the desal plant, which would create about 56,000 acre-feet of pricey drinking water every year, if approved.

The tax truth came out unexpectedly at a special Mesa Water board meeting held June 27 to promote the Poseidon project’s supposed benefits.

About 100 Mesa area residents were in the audience.

Invited speaker Robert Sulnick made Poseidon’s case during a 20-minute presentation.

Opponents of the desal plant were not invited to speak.

Sulknick was introduced as an environmental attorney and the executive director of OC WISE–with no mention (until questioned by this reporter after his presentation) that the group is a Poseidon front of developers and that he is one of Poseidon’s paid consultants. Continue reading Poseidon Jokes and Mesa Water Laughs Over Proposed Tax Increase for ‘Privately Funded’ Desal Project