What Cost Desal?

It is pretty clear to Santa Barbara–area residents that if current drought conditions persist, desalination plants will be our future source of fresh water. If the existing plant, when refurbished (at approximately $20 million, which may be financed privately), is capable of providing water for approximately 70,000 people daily, we need to build additional facilities to process water for another 130,000 people, based on a figure of 200,000 population for greater S.B. area.

How does the city plan to finance this construction?

• A water bond measure on the November ballot, whereby residents are given the choice of paying for construction of their own plant(s) and owning and pricing the water, or

• Contracting with a utility company, like the one building desal plants for San Diego County. The company owns the water and sell it to the Municipal Water Authority, and as the owner, it has the upper hand in setting the price.

We’ve all heard that desal water is expensive, but how expensive? If the mayor could communicate an estimate of what the cost would be per household for privately generated desal water (or another utilities’ estimate) to Santa Barbara residents, that could serve two purposes: to get Santa Barbara residents to save more now and to vote for a local Water Bond Measure.

These are important questions. Lake Cachuma is due to be completely dry by winter 2014, and construction on a desal plant will take a year or more. Why the silence and inaction when the November primary is only three months away? I have collected signatures for ballot initiatives, and I know it would be easier for the city and its legal resources to draft a water bond and place it on the ballot. Santa Barbara residents need to be given the opportunity to finance and own their future water source by passing or not passing a water bond, and that choice should not be lost.

I encourage everyone to talk to the city councilmembers. We’ve elected them to do a very important job, and all I hear is silence. This may be only a part-time job for City Councilmembers, but it is life and death for the rest of us.

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