They used to call California ocean desalination a disaster. But water crisis brings new look
A little over a week ago, two men walked unannounced into the city government building on the corner of San Fernando Street in Los Angeles, and announced that they had a business proposition: to create a private water company that would operate as a public utility, only using “fresh water” from the ocean.
The idea, proposed by the two men, was that one of them would run the company, while the other would be the CEO. They’d be called Ocean Water in San Diego and Ocean Water in Los Angeles.
The meeting was for the Board of Harbor Commissioners, the city’s advisory board responsible for licensing new businesses and approving new developments that come before the city council and mayor.
During their five-minute meeting, they made a few suggestions to the board, about how to set up the business. They knew the board wasn’t going to pass any regulation, and they said it would be up to the commissioners to make a decision.
The proposal has become a symbol, and a warning, of the city’s water crisis.
By the end of the day, the idea was rejected. The board had no appetite to take the risk of establishing a new business, a private utility with a monopoly position in providing water in the city, said Joe Sims, who was the acting director of the city’s public utilities department at the time.
To be sure, the rejection was not unanimous.
On May 14, the City Council voted unanimously to kill the proposal.
“It’s a little surreal,” said James Smith, chief of the Water Commission, which had reviewed it when the first meeting took place on Wednesday, May 10.
Smith said he and his colleagues tried to work with the company for months, attempting to work in a creative and equitable way.
“It does come across as a little shady,” Smith