The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-2500

Proposed Rockland County Desalination Plant a Boon for United Water New York, a Bust for Area Water Customers


The Haverstraw Water Supply Project, a
proposed desalination plant in Rockland County, New York, could generate as
much as $5 million in annual profits for United Water New York, but community
members would ultimately pay the price in the form of increased water rates,
finds a new report released today by the national consumer advocacy group Food
& Water Watch. Entitled Not Worth It's Salt: How Rockland County Could End
Up Paying for an Unnecessary Desalination Plant
, the report recommends
approaches to meeting the area's water needs that include conservation,
improving existing water infrastructure, and better stormwater management and
land use planning, among others.

"United Water New York's proposed desalination facility
for the Hudson River is a classic example of how the interests of private water
companies starkly conflict with the needs of the customers to whom they are
providing this essential resource," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of
Food & Water Watch. "Rockland County residents have voiced a preference for
conservation and other low-cost, low-impact water-delivery options, but United
Water has instead chosen to pursue a high-tech method that would boost its

Construction of the proposed Haverstraw Water Supply
Project is expected to cost up to $105 million in 2008 dollars. United Water
will recover its costs through a New Water Supply Source surcharge, which water
users will have to pay.

In addition to these financial costs, the Haverstraw
Water Supply Project would use two to three times as much electricity as a
similarly sized water treatment plant, and only produce three-quarters of the
water, all while potentially adding to carbon emissions, polluting the Hudson
River, and contribute to flooding.

"United Water could recover up to two million gallons of
water a day simply by fixing leaks in the area's infrastructure system, almost
the same amount expected to be produced from the plant," noted Hauter.

Similar desalination projects in other parts of the
United States have been fraught with problems. Tampa Bay's plant, perhaps the
most notorious example of the failures of desalination, is unable to
consistently produce the 25 million gallons a day it was supposed to, and came
online years behind schedule and millions of dollars over its predicted cost. A
smaller plant in Swansea, Massachusetts, went over its $18 million original
budget before its scheduled date to come online. Desalination projects
currently proposed in California are being met with considerable resistance
from local groups.

In Rockland County, local residents have formed the
Rockland Coalition for Sustainable Water, which in addition to opposing the
plant, is working to educate stakeholders about safe and affordable means of
establishing a sustainable source of drinking water for the area.

A subsidiary
of the French multinational company Suez Environnement, United Water New York
and its parent company maintain
track records of high-profile privatization failures around the world,
as communities have ended their contracts due to poor system upkeep, service
problems, and other issues.

Not Worth It's Salt: How Rockland County Could End Up
Paying for an Unnecessary Desalination Plant
is available at:

Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people's health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.

(202) 683-2500