Desal in Baja? Bad Deal for the Coast

Pacific Ocean Coast at Ensenada, Baja Californ...

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Yesterday the San Diego Union Tribune reported on the potential development of four new desalination plants on the coast between Tijuana and Ensenada. From the article:

Now water managers are considering whether to build four desalination plants along the Pacific Ocean corridor that spans Rosarito Beach to Ensenada. Two of the proposals are binational ventures — one private, the other public — that would pipe a portion of the processed seawater to users in San Diego County.

The private project has been moving forward quickly in recent months as developers explore the possibility of a reverse-osmosis facility in Rosarito Beach with an initial capacity of 50 million gallons daily. That would be as large as the Poseidon plant scheduled for operations in Carlsbad.

For years, U.S. and Mexican water agencies have discussed the prospects of a binational desalination plant in Rosarito Beach, and the issue is gaining momentum as mounting supply demands and drought have strained the Colorado River.

To develop open coastal space in Baja California to fuel development in San Diego County (the Otay Water District would purchase some of the water) seems like a crazy scheme.

I write about the threat of desal in Baja and worldwide in my new book Wild Sea: Eco-Wars and Surf Stories from the Coast of the Californias:

Efforts to build these (desal) plants instead of investing in water conservation represents a new global threat to coastal and marine resources.

My travels in Victoria, Australia, during the summer of 2009, revealed that a planned desal plant on a pristine stretch of coast southeast of Melbourne, was one of the biggest environmental issues in all of Australia.

For Mexicans concerned about the current lack of public access to their coast, it must be troubling to think that their coastline will be used to fuel development in Southern California. Due to the significant issue of sewage polluted ocean water in and around Rosarito Beach, it is troubling to think that a company would suck polluted water out of the ocean, use huge amounts of fossil fuel burning energy to suck out the salt, and then send the water to San Diego County.

These new desal plans are proof that the Baja Boom is coming back to the Baja coast. And the future is very clear–Baja’s coast will be rapidly industrialized to fuel development for Southern California.

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