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California is about to complete the largest water desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere. It can’t come online soon enough: the state’s four-year drought continues to plow forward, and water conservation initiatives are falling short of state goals.
But the plant is coming at a huge cost, both financially—at $1 billion, some have calculated it would cost less to simply import water—and environmentally. Desalination is highly energy intensive and carries a huge carbon footprint, though the plant’s operators say they will be buying carbon credits to offset releases.
Meanwhile, Matt O’Malley, legal and policy director for San Diego Coastkeeper, is worried discharges from the plant will harm marine life at the bottom of the ocean. He argues that before other projects like this move forward, much more scrutiny and current water use.
“Before , we ‘re going to create sacrifice zones in the ocean, we better make sure that the water source we’re implementing is needed.”
Fusion’s Tim Pool visited the plant, and talked to some of its critics, to learn about what’s at stake.
Camera/Producer: Valerie Bischoff
Video Editor: Laurie Thomas