tv Ali Velshi on Target Al Jazeera August 18, 2015 1:30am-2:01am EDT
fertile places, yet it struggles to provide fresh food for its own residents. a reminder you can always keep up to date with the latest news and analysis, including the latest on the bangkok blast. that's at www.aljazeera.com. >> i'm ali velshi. "on target" tonight. the sea water, to beat california's drought is a costly mistake. plus to stop a threat to marine life as we know it all over the world. california is into its fourth year of a severe water drought. it's the worst in years. the dryness is responsible in part for large forest fires in
northern california that have taken two lives if recent weeks. the state has responded to the drought by enacting your honor precedented water cutting measures on california residents. there's growing pressure on the state's farmers to conserve more water but that's a tall order in a state where water distribution is a billion dollar business. ask anyone about california's water problems and the answer will inevitably complicated. there are hundreds of water agencies ranging in size and scope from whole counties and cities to individual mobile home parks. state and federal officials are working with these agencies as well as private companies to try to solve california's massive water shortages. within this crowd of interests is a private water company that seems to have struck gold despite the drought. po poseidon water, in california
it's done that by securing a lucrative 30 year deeld t deal w water from the pacific ocean and sell it to 3 million wawr customers in san dieg watercustomers. make no mistake, once the salt is squeezed out, it's a good product. but it's very expensive to produce. as poseidon is prepared to turn on the taps this ye, it's going out of the way to woo officials to build nor desa more de sal ftc facilities. here the duarte geraldino. >> this billion dollar program in carlsbad california will pump
out ocean water but what comes out is drinking water. >> the largest most environmentally sound desalination facility. >> jessica believes this is the answer to san diego county water shortage. >> we pull in 100,000 gallons of sea water and we get a 50% recovery. >> meaning for every two gallons it pulls in it produces one gallon of drinking water. but 60 miles to the north in orange county there is opposition to the desalination plant. >> this whole water plan concerns me. >> a two term mayor in huntington beach, cook says it's a bad deal. >> it's a private company that has been lying to us since 1998. they're privatizing water. >> poseidon took out a little more than $800 million in loans to build the carlsbad plant.
but when credit rating agencies weighed in they warned the facility made little sense. moody's said, the cost of the water would be twice as much as currently imported sources. absent its current offtake contract. under that off take contract the san diego county water authority must buy all of the plant's water for the next 30 years. and that extra cost is being directly passed on to customers. the deal with it not only help poseidon repay its debt, it will also give its investors a substantial return on its money. bob yamada is the director of the water authority which currently imports 80% of its water. yamada said, even though poseidon's water is pricey, san diego county will be less dependent on imported water.
>> less than what we pay for imported water. the idea whereby the water purchase agreement, purchasing water from poseidon is we have shifted the risk of designing constructing and operating the project for the customer. >> that is such a (bleep) argument. the risk is on the person who has to pay the tab. rate pay err iratepayer is goino sign on the dotted line. once they get into this monopoly system we're going to pay to them. meld it over to the area make everybody subsidize the cost of this expensive boutique water. >> boutique water? >> it is boutique water. the kind of stuff you would put in a water bottle. orange county water district does not need this water. >> orange county water board president castie green disagrees. she says a growing population
needs a reliable water source. >> we still don't have enough water. we're still having to buy imported water. you can only buy 85% of your needs. >> poseidon plans to build its second desalination plant here in huntington beach in a site next to a decommissioned power plant. even though it still needs to be approved by the orange county water district and the coastal commission. >> before they have any approval it's a $1 billion plant. >> to gary the plant doesn't make sense. >> it's energy intensive, environmental impact and by far the most costly. >> brown founded orange county coast keeper. >> if your back is to the wall and you need that last option desal is the last option. what's different from carlsbad to orange county is that orange county has been probably in the whole united states one of the
most innovative areas for innovations in water technology and the solution, basically, is groundwater replenishment. is taking waste water and turning it into a super-purified water. >> reporter: since 2001 poseidon spent more than $1 million lobbying state politicians to sway state water laws in its favor. the firm also turned hundreds of thousands of dollars into state and local political races. that strategy seemed to have worked. the orange county water district voted in favor of poe sy done's proposal giving the county an even better deal than in san diego county. this new deal makes the agency buy all of poseidon's water every day. and fork out a nearly $160 million to lay the water pipeline but poseidon has to get
california coastal commission's approval. >> we're not deterred. it was a long road in carlsbad, there were a lot of ups and downs but we're building a historic project here. >> up until now water has been in the public domain and publicly ran and poe s poseidone opposite of that. >> some say the company itself is exercising undue influence. >> politically they have made contributions to everybody and they have everybody in their pocket but frankly i think most people vote their consciou conscience d vote what they think is best. >> a corporation own a particularly resource? >> in the best of all words, you would say no. you want all water to be free. but that's not the reality. in order to build these big plants you have to have lots and
lots of money. >> we used to have grass here. >> but debbie still thinks these expensive desalination projects should be a main resort. >> four million acre feet of water is dumped into the ocean every year just from sewage treatment plants. get that water before you dump it into the ocean. there you go, we just solved the water problem. >> but just like cook, californiaments california's persistent drought means they may get their facility. >> duarte geraldino, waste water, i don't know if she was talking about california or ocean county. and that's a whole different discussion about whether waste water is better than desalinated water. but i don't even know what 4 million acre feet is. how much is
this? >> industry jargon. consider a lake the size of a football deep, where the water is only one foot deep. that is an acre-feet, that's what the state schooled in 2010. >> water that goes out in the ocean, waste water and i'm assuming the opposite side of that argument is let's treat that waste water. waste water does get treatand consumed. is that a better plan? >> a lot of effort is being put into waste water and that's one ideal plan. however as we grow more and more efficient the amount of waste water we produce is shrinking. that in and of itself is not a solution. >> what does poseidon say about this controversy, request they have been doing this for 15 years to get that one in san diego county going. what do they say? >> they actually invited united states into the plant, they are proud of it.
this is culmination of all this work without any profit up to this point. when we got these criticisms, we presented it to them and they aggressively displissed, we said why don't you come onto the show and discuss it? they said we're not coming on the show, they recommended 15 people that supported them. none of them would come on the show to really defend -- >> they might as you defend it, they are clearly on the record saying this is a good thing. did they not want to get involved in the controversy? >> they didn't want to get involved in the criticism. they believe although this is one option for california's future it is so incredibly expensive, the company is looking for profit as opposed to satisfying the thirst going on. a senator patricia bates sent us this statement. i support the huntington beach and carlsbad plants because it
reduces our need from outside sources. >> i got my water i need my water, somebody's getting paid for this. in most cases it is the municipality or the local agency. i guess, that is something still owned by the people. something held in common versus something held by a corporate entity. >> you're hitting it on the nose. the big controversy, should this thirst be solved by a private company whose motive is profit or by a private company where their only objective is to create a reliable source at the lowest possible cost? in defense of california's addition to move forward with this they said there was a lot of risk at play, that they couldn't assume this risk. but when you have a private entity assuming lot of risk, they're also -- >> going to want the profit from it. >> exactly. >> duarte geraldino, what is not to like about taking the salt out of sea water? i'm going to talk to somebody who says there's plenty wrong
>> my name is imran garda. the show is called "third rail". when you watch the show, you're gonna find us being unafraid. the topics will fascinate you... intrigue you. >> they take this seriously. >> let me quote you. >> there's a double standard. >> you can't be a hypocrite. >> you're gonna also get a show that's really fair, bold, never predictable. >> they should be worried about heart disease not terrorism. >> no, i wouldn't say that at all. >> you'll see a show that has an impact on the conventional wisdom, that goes where nobody else goes. my name is imran garda, i'm the host of "third rail" - and you can find it on al jazeera america.
in california should raise concerns. heather thank you for being with us. you've authored several reports on ocean desalination that paint quite a critical picture of the process. marine life impingement, energid energy use and cost. if california doesn't start desalination, how account state ensure it's not going to run out of water? >> that is a really good question. people are constantly looking for a silver but to solve the water problems for california. bullet. there are a number of ways we need to improve and manage water resources. a key answer is use and conservation. we have tremendous opportunity to be replacing old appliances and fixtures and putting in new efficient ones. >> and we've actually seen some
of this happen in cars, as over time gas has become higher cost, we're driving less carpooling more, that's an over-time issue. the california issue seems very urgent at the time. so i can see why voters and residents of california say this might cost more but this seems to be a bit of a silver bullet. >> well just to go back to that you can't accelerate the implementation of conservation and efficiency. there are a variety of ways you can do that, through rebates and incentives, through education, through the pricing of water. so and can you do it through standards and codes. -- you can do it through standards and codes. hey're really what's enabling us to get through this drought and through future droughts. >> so california has already cut between 25 and 27% of its usage. it's there but it's 30 million people and a lot of big businesses and farms and some fracking, there are things that take a lot of water.
absent that, let's go back to the desalination plant. tell my viewers why you think this is a bad idea. >> well, i think there are other alternatives that are available at lower cost. so as i mentioned conservation and efficiency, water recycling and reuse. we discharge a lot of treated waste water into the ocean or into bays that could be reused. storm water, you know our urban areas were really built sort of as a once-there are system where rainwater comes down, channelized as quickly as possible and it's discharged where it often causes water pollution. there is an opportunity orecharge groundwater aquifers so we can use it during summertime and during droughts. >> tel tell me in terms of technologies are in consuming desalinated water versus waste water that's been treated? >> the technology is actually quite similar.
they're boast using in many cases reverse osmosis. you are pushing that water, the waste water or the sea water, through those membranes, you create a very very high quality water, that can be reused for landscape irrigation, for cooling towers. it can also be used as it's done in orange county to recharge groundwater which can be used for drinking wawt. >> drinking water. >> you have got in california a groundwater deficit, what do you mean by that? >> we are using more groundwater than annually replenished. that is referred to as groundwater overdraft. that is clearly a problem but it also presents an opportunity in that we can use that groundwater or that space, you know as storage for recycled water, we can use it for storm water. there are a lot of different ways we can be using that resource much better, so that we can get through dry
periods. >> australia and israel seem quite happy with their project on desalination. again i don't get to the problem of why you think it's bad. we should conserve, and given that, imhas the proble what is the problem with desalinating? >> australia had a very severe drought and in response they built six large desalination plants. four have been shut down, they are only operating two. the reason they have been shut down is there are cheaper options available. even though they have invested in the capital cost it is cheaper t to turn the plants off. we build a plant shas ultimately useless one that we don't use and this really wastes money. we have seen that in australia and we have done that in
california. in santa barbara they built a desalination plant in the '90s, that drought ended and they put that plant in a stand by mode. that is a plant the communities are still paying for but not getting the benefit in the form of water. >> people always ask me do you know there's a drought can you sense it as a visitor i absolutely can't. there is no sense of people acting like there's a water shortage. is the government doing enough, at the time state doing enough, if they have already achieved 27% reductions in water usage or in conservation what else do you do? >> i disagree with you. i think people are realizing there is a drought. i 30 the numbers that you quoted are an indication of that. we have sooner demand down 27% versus what it was just three years ago. people weren't doing as well about a year ago. we saw much less in the terms of
reductions but people are starting to get it. we are seeing people take out lawns and put in low water usage landscapes. put in lower resolution uses. we can do more going forward and we have to do more in order to build a resilient and steafnable water future for california. >> what i meant as a visitor as somebody who goes in for a few days i didn't flow anything that said water shortage but we definitely do enough stories that realize that if you live in california you are noticing it a lot. heather thank you for coming. >> thank you for having me. >> heather cooley. more on the unseen threats to our seas and the team of scientists determined to put a
>> the world's oceans are one of the greatest natural resources out there but they are coming under threat, amid concerns of pollution and overfishing there are other issues that people didn't know existed. ocean acidification. people haven't been trying to solve the problem or add at least they haven't been, until now. >> the last acidification that was naturally concerning was 50
million years ago, that took millennia to happen not decades. >> it's acid fieg the water and changing the entire ecosystem. >> which is changing chemicals breaking down of things that are essential for human life. >> scientists say the ph levels are getting lower and the first to get hit, shellfish. >> when shellfish populations fail to thrive we have a problem. when juvenile oysters and clams are unable to make their shells people start to notice this. >> wendy schmidt is a philanthropy wh philanthropist. who teamed up to invent a sensor to test acidification. >> accurate enough that the results matter. >> the goal is to create a network of sensors that will
collect data on the world's oceans from the depth of 10,000 feet all the way up to the surface. and monitoring acid levels in real time. >> what we want to see out of this x prize are devices everywhere in the hands of scientists all over the world, research institutions, coastal managers,. >> angioteams have submitted their best ideas to x prize to split for a collective of $2 million in prize money. >> you never know where innovation comes pr. it was fun. >> our winner sun burst sensors, you have spent some time with them, what have you snowed? >> they come from missoula, montana. they don't have an ocean there.
>> it's made of ti titanium. this is the i sammy, it is an inexpensive sammy. >> it won both the accuracy and the cost hands-down. i think the numbers that were important here is they brought the cost of one of these sensors from $15,000 to under $1,000. so a 15-fold reduction. and they created those cost reductions without losing any accuracy. >> what i really like about these is that they're so simple. software is very easy to use, you put the instrument in the water you let it go and you have data. >> what's interesting to me is see the older twices and test -- devices and testing against them, scientists say we're watching the download of the information from the new device, we know this water column really well, we studied it from top to bottom many times so we know
what the acidification profile looks like. the device that i watched was track that well. this guy was over the moon. it's like this actually works and it's cheaper, it's durable. >> accurate measurement is key to understanding ocean acidification and addressing the problem. the next step is getting people to adopt the new technology. >> the adoption is very quick. when something works the market actually has the solutions. there's no demand for it. >> now this is the second oceans x prize with the overall mission to do five total challenges. peter damandas says they are searching for other prizes. ocean is an energy, environment and learning. the goal is to find the biggest problems that aren't being addressed by government or the markets, and oceans technology and intelligence and money to solve them. that is our show today i'm ali velshi, thank you for joining
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