Water. desalination + reuse

water d+r March 2017

Water. Desalination + reuse

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Poseidon is bullish about its future prospects as a water plant developer because the success of Carlsbad desalination plant in San Diego County, California, has provided it with an impressive calling card to municipal water agencies across the US and beyond C a r l o s r i v a C h i e f e x e C u t i v e o f f i C e r P o s e i d o n Wat e r D esalination plant developer Poseidon Water received an apparent boost in January, when its proposed Huntington Beach, Orange County, desalination plant turned up on a list of infrastructure projects favoured by the new US president Donald Trump. Presidential backing for the project that California regulators are putting through its paces before deciding whether to grant permission to build, appeared to signal that it may, in some way, receive a boost through the permissions process. Carlos Riva, chief executive of the developer that has won plaudits for another southern California desal project, the Carlsbad desalination plant in San Diego County, is playing down the significance of the president's endorsement. "That is still evolving, and is not yet a policy. Things are moving around," he says. "I am not 100 per cent sure what the meaning of it is and where it stands." Even given what is shaping up to be a tumultuous time ahead for the US Federal environmental regulator, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the administration of Trump appointee and climate change sceptic Scott Pruitt, Riva does not expect a change in approach by California state regulators to Huntington Beach. "States such as California that have been very rigorous, I don't see that changing. They are people who are passionate about protecting their environment," he says. "Permitting for seawater desal is going to be challenging and rigorous, and there aren't going to be any shortcuts. Anyone who wants to get involved in this business is going to have to roll up their sleeves and do all the hard work of very in-depth studies, and prove that their impacts on the environment generally, and in the marine environment especially, are going to be de minimis." The idea he takes confidence from is that Carlsbad desalination plant has set a positive precedent for projects of this type in California, and potentially beyond. "It is the largest and most technologically advanced, energy efficient and environmentally friendly seawater desalination project in the western hemisphere. We are very, very proud of that. It has concluded its first year of operation and has had a very successful operating year," Riva says. Particularly, he points to the number of community and water industry visitors who have taken time to look around the site and to engage with its story. "We have had literally thousands of visitors, from students to local residents, other parties from around the state and folks from around the country who are interested in possibly developing other seawater desal." And although Riva says that neither Carlsbad nor Huntington Beach was conceived as a direct response to drought — instead, he positions them as providing reliable and local sources of water as opposed to imported sources that are potentially subject to interruption — the public perception of Carlsbad has benefited from it reliably providing water against a backdrop of ongoing drought in southern California during 2016. "California has been through a multi-year drought of very significant scale. The last couple of months there has been lot of precipitation, there is snow in the Sierra Mountains, and there has been rain; and that has relieved the drought situation," says Riva. "But these projects, Carlsbad and Huntington Beach, were begun well before this most recent drought. The fact that we've had a couple of wet months doesn't really change anything." He sees Carlsbad as a "very important symbol" of what public-private partnerships in the water sector can achieve. "A lot of people from water districts in other states that are interested in doing either desal or public- private partnerships for assets in their area, have come to tour the plant and to speak with our partner San Diego Water Authority, to learn about the experience. They're asking, 'Why were they comfortable with allowing a private entity to do this?', and 'How they were able to interact and to make sure that the project was built to their standards and specifications?' The same holds true for environmental concerns. "Here you have a facility that's operating that people can Carlos Riva has steered Poseidon for six years, having previously led Verenium, an industrial biotechnology company Water. desalination + reuse March 2017 Interview 9

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