California needs water.
Blue Lake in Sitka, Alaska, has a lot.
So a company that holds the rights to up to 9 billion gallons of the lake’s water is pitching an idea that would send some of it — via tanker ship — to the Golden State as it endures the fourth year of severe drought.
On Monday, U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro — who was intrigued by the idea when she first saw an article about it last month — gathered representatives from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and several area water districts to vet the possibilities.
Terry Trapp, CEO of Alaska Bulk Water, was among those on hand to answer questions.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm but there’s also clearly a lot of work,” Trapp said after the meeting.
Bottom line: Don’t stop rationing your water just yet.
“Nobody signed up for it,” Hahn said after the meeting. “But it’s a very interesting concept. … I think it was an opportunity to think outside the box and it’s a concept that could work for smaller water districts in California.”
The congresswoman, who is preparing to run for what will be an open seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors next year, suggested Catalina Island, however, might be an area that could make use of such a plan.
Sitka gets about 100 inches of rain every year and the lake water is continually replenished.
“The discussion centers around the possibility of how to discharge the water either directly into the different municipal water systems or into private tanks that we’d have to construct at the ports,” Trapp said. “We’re considering a lot of this as conceptual at this point with a lot of details to be worked out. But those who attended the meeting were very receptive to helping us come up with some solutions.”
While “nobody said it wasn’t going to work,” Hahn said, shipping water from Alaska to Southern California does pose challenges. The infrastructure — pipelines and storage facilities, for example — would have to be built at the ports.
And the water would be expensive, more expensive than the water purchased now from water districts.
The lake water, which Hahn described as “probably purer than any of the water we have,” would strictly be drinking water, not something that could or should be used for irrigation, although Trapp said that wouldn’t necessarily be the case.
“It’s water,” he said.
Making the transfer of water economically feasible is the sticking point.
But moving forward, Hahn said, the concept of shipping water either by ship or pipeline could become a “piece of the whole water puzzle,” especially for smaller water districts.
Among those attending Monday’s meeting were representatives of the Metropolitan Water District, Central Basin Water District, and West Basin Water District. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power was unable to send a representative.
Hospitals could be another likely customer, the congresswoman said.
Alaska Bulk Water has a contract to sell 300 million gallons of water to Mexico, Hahn said, but otherwise is in the exploratory stage of testing the market.
The idea isn’t new.
Hahn said her father, Kenneth Hahn, when he was still serving on the Board of Supervisors in the 1980s, talked about developing a water pipeline from Alaska to California, but it never was built.
The state’s unrelenting drought has inspired many ideas as California looks forward to better prepare for dry cycles in the future.
“I think everyone was pleased to hear the concept,” she said. “Long term, it might fit into an overall water use plan.”
“We constitute a part of the solution,” Trapp said.