Steve Bray owns Steve's Steak House in Avalon and says the drought has been tough for him and others on Catalina Island. In August of 2014 Islanders had to cut water use by 25%. And, in recent weeks, they were on a path to a mandated 50% cut. Not an easy thing for restaurants. Bray started selling water for 50 cents and carefully washing dishes with it.
Back in June Southern California Edison and Avalon council members went into urgency mode and in less than 6 months created a desalination plant capable of taking salty ocean water and turning into drinkable water. It's the second on the island. The first makes 200,000 gallons of water a day. The new one can produce an additional 125,000.
Edison's Ron Hite says, "It's additional insurance to keep us from deeper levels of rationing because its drought resistant and it's going to be here another 20 or 30 years."
The first one has been around almost a quarter century and, after it filters water it pumps the leftover into the new plant which squeezes more drinkable water out of it.
Greg Feree, with South California Edison says, "It takes the discharge from our first desalination unit from that unit as the input to this unit and extracts even more fresh water from the exhaust of the first unit." But, because the island's main reservoir remains low Steve Bray and others are looking to El Niño for help. He says, "We need to fill up our dam. If the tourists can't come over here and they need water too then, obviously we can't live here."
Meanwhile, Ron Hite says, "Whats really important to us here is to have successive rainstorms through the season."
And, back to back rains is something El Niño can do. The new plant goes online next week.