New York watchdog throws out Suez desalination proposal

The New York State utility regulator has rejected a proposal by a Suez Environnement subsidiary, United Water, for the first desalination plant on the Hudson River north of New York City.

Regulator – the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) – called for a study of alternatives to the desalination plant. Suez – Europe’s second-largest publicly traded water company – argued that a plant sited at Haverstraw – where the Hudson turns brackish – could meet a forecast increase in demand for potable water for 1 cent a gallon (3.8 cents a litre).

In a statement, the PSC said: “Due to changed circumstances, there was no longer an immediate need for a new water supply source.” The project, first proposed in 2007, was based on a study the previous year that had “overestimated” current water use, the commission reported in May.

It said, however, that a water shortage may occur as by 2020. Costs for the 37.5 Ml/d plant, pumping station and water intakes were estimated at some US$ 140 million to US$ 190 million.

“Desalination is an effort of last resort in a water-rich state,” said plant opponent, Roger Downs of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. He claimed in a filing with the commission, United Water could supply its 73,000 customers and more by patching leaks and drawing more water from a nearby reservoir. State lawmakers opposed to the desalination plant estimated customer bills may rise as much as US$ 500 a year for the water works.