January 13, 2014

Desalination Plant Could Jeopardize Groundwater Supply
California American Water could threaten the ground water supply of the Salinas Valley where up to 60 percent of the vegetables and leafy greens are grown for the nation. The water company, which serves about 100,000 people on the Monterey Peninsula, was ordered 20 years ago to reduce using their source of water from the Carmel River by 60 percent by 2016.

Norm Groot, the Executive Director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau, says the water company has been frantically searching for an alternative source. “Unfortunately, they have had twenty years to do that and the voters haven’t really been necessarily sympathetic and voted for their particular projects when they proposed them. So, now we are down to the point where we are looking at a desalination plant that is supposedly going to replace all that water from the Carmel River.” Groot says people there are concerned about such additional issues as the cost and the energy footprint.

The test well for the proposed desal plant may be fairy close to the shoreline, but any water taken from that well could impact the Salinas Valley. Groot thinks our biggest concern is we really don’t know how large a cone of influence, a scientific term for the influence that a source water intake has in a particular area, is going to be felt. The variables are the confluences between the lower aquifer, which is the Salinas Valley Basin, and the shallow aquifer that they are proposing to take the water from and the potential for impact because the actual aquifer goes off shore quite a distance.

Groot has been actively involved in the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) process, “trying to insert our particular viewpoints into the process so that everyone is fully aware of what the ramifications are of placing the source water intakes over the aquifer and really what happens if there is determination that the there is harm and that they are pumping some sort of source water that includes Salinas Valley, either brackish or fresh water.”