Baja California desalination moves forward despite controversy

In a controversial extraordinary session, the Baja California legislature approved the 95th Opinion, which represented nearly the last hurdle to starting construction of two desalination plants in the coastal zone.

Consolidated Water Corporation and RWL Water will develop and operate the desalination plants in Playas de Rosarito and San Quintín, respectively, both under a public-private partnership.

The projects have generated extensive controversy, both for the financial burden to Baja California and for an arrangement to sell water to the Otay Water District across the border in San Diego.

Opponents allege that the projects will put B a j a Californians in debt for the next 37 years since it compromises the state’s finances by having to pay US$4.5 billion to the companies.

In the case of the Rosarito d e s a l i n a t i o n plant, the s t a t e government will have to deliver more than US$8 million per month for almost four decades, a total of US$3.5 billion, critics allege.

Moreover, there is opposition to a plan to sell the water to the Otay Water District when Baja California has a multitude of water needs.

“The desalination plant of Playas de Rosarito,” said Diputado Miguel Osuna, “it is a California project, but in Mexican territory.

An Otay Water District document indicated that not only has the agency agreed to buy water from the plant but also has pressured Baja California to move ahead quickly.

The San Diego agency document noted that the project had stalled after several failed attempts to approve the ruling in the Baja California legislature. “If consent is not given during this year, we would have to wait for approval until 2020, after the presidential elections of 2018 and the elections of 2019, for governor of Baja California,” it said.

Meanwhile, the San Quintin desalination plant will be delayed about eight months because the legislature has not authorized a line of credit so work can begin. The project now is expected to be completed in April 2019.