The solution to California’s water shortage has always appeared obvious to outsiders. Their rationale goes like this: If you look at a map you’ll see that immediately to the west of the state there’s a body of water, and it’s pretty big. Just suck some water from there, filter out the salt and quit whining already.

But insiders know it’s not that simple. California is exceedingly sensitive to environmental concerns, and proposals to desalinate Pacific Ocean water are met with stout resistance. Been that way for years.

Lately, however, that dam of resistance has started to crumble.

Consider this: Two very pro-environment California Democrats, former senator Barbara Boxer and state Assembly speaker Fabian Nunez, recently signed up to lobby for a proposed desalination plant in Huntington Beach. Desalination may not be perfect, Boxer said, but environmentally, it is now the best choice.

What happened to change minds? Improvements in the way water is sucked from the ocean result in less damage to fish eggs and the like. Salt from the desalination process now is diffused widely back into the ocean so as not to create a zone of concentrated brine. And there’s a growing belief that desalination, if done right, appears to be the best environmental option.

The national assembly of the League of United Latin American Citizens voted to support that Huntington Beach desalination plant. Dave Rodriguez, LULAC’s state president, said that since imported water is growing pricier, desalinated water may become cheaper alternative. Also, a drought-proof source of water will help the Orange County economy grow.

“The time for debate and delay is over,” said Rodriguez. “The Latino community knows that water is life – whether for agriculture, business or clean safe urban drinking water.”

I bring this up because if the Huntington Beach project is approved, which could happen soon, it would have ripple effects up and down the coast.

There is now no official plan to site a desal plant in Ventura County, but one logically could go there. And if it does, it could go a long way toward helping the Conejo and San Fernando valleys’ economy by allowing businesses and residents to feel confident about their water security.

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Does it seem to you that more business people are ignoring their emails?

I found myself asking that question in recent weeks because I’ve been involved in a task that involves sending emails to a couple hundred of our area’s top leaders. And it has surprised me how much harder it is to get through to folks compared to even a year or two ago. I’ve increasingly resorted to a legacy technology – it’s called the telephone – as I’m forced to reach out in desperation.

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