The West Basin Municipal Water District will open the doors of its new Redondo Beach desalination plant to the public later this week. The water district will host an open host at the new facility this Saturday, December 4.
The Redondo Beach desalination plant is a test facility. The West Basin Municipal Water District plans to try different desal technologies. It also wants to use it to figure out how the process of filtering salt from sea water will affect marine life.
Phil Lauri is a principal engineer on the $10 million project. "Around the world, this has been done for decades," says Lauri. "It's been done, like if you're taking a cruise, desalination is how they treat the water on a cruise ship. The Navy has used it for decades.
"The Middle East, Asia, all over the world – Australia has gone through and put $9 billion in the last four years in building. They have such huge drought conditions there, that they've actually spent a ton of money because they've had to address their water shortage issues."
Officials say that’s the goal here, too – to address Southern California’s looming water shortage. They call it the final step on the journey to full-scale.
But desalination opponents worry the process could harm marine life. They say it’s better to focus on conservation and other water-saving efforts. Conner Everts of the environmental group, the Desal Response Group, says he’d rather see money go toward other water-saving measures, like conservation.
"What we don't want is for this to be a stranded asset – perpetuate the old power plant here, on one side," says Everts. "And at the same time, not provide real water that people then become dependent on. And that's what's happened in Santa Barbara and that's what's happening in Australia, even after their long drought."
Everts says those desal projects either failed or were deserted. But desalination supporters say the ocean is a great source for drinking water and would help cut our dependence on imported water.
The Saturday open house will give the public a chance to see the inner workings of the desal plant in Redondo’s King Harbor area. It’ll run from 10 in the morning until 2 in the afternoon.