A proposed surf park, dubbed “Coral Mountain,” in the city of La Quinta in Coachella Valley was rejected unanimously by the City Council mid-September.
Thank god. The last thing Californians need is a gigantic water-wasting project like this.
The project, proposed by luxury real estate company Meriwether Co., would consist of a hotel, several hundred homes and a gigantic water basin with technology to bring the ocean a hundred miles or so inland.
Pro surfer Kelly Slater’s company developed the hydrofoil generator that creates the waves, which can reach up to 8 feet high. According to the Kelly Slater Wave Co. website, “The wave form is inspired and designed by world class ocean waves.”
I don’t know if this means the ocean waves themselves got involved in this, admittedly cool, concept but if so, they didn’t consider the problems with building such a pool in one of the driest areas of the country.
California is in the middle of a megadrought that has seen three consecutive dry years with another projected to be on the way. As the water year comes to a close, experts predict that this fall will see above average temperatures and a warm and dry winter.
In Coachella Valley, residents actually use about three times more water than the state average per person. There are 124 irrigated golf courses in Palm Springs and Coachella Valley, which as a whole makes up less than one percent of Southern California’s population yet contains 28 percent of the region’s golf courses. Those golf courses use between 750,000 and 1 million gallons of water a day. While the golf industry employs over 8,000 workers and generates almost $750 million in golf-related spending per year, it is clear that its pristine courses are major water wasters in the region.
So, to add a luxury surf park that would waste even more water would be a slap in the face to residents who aren’t involved in the tourism industry.
Residents of Riverside County already face fines for going over their allotted outside water budget. It seems wrong for a company made up of just 10 employees, including its owners, to benefit from such a large increase in water usage for the enjoyment of wealthy snowbirds and visitors.
Because while everyone loses in a drought, it’s the poorest communities that are hit the hardest, according to a report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, California’s nonpartisan policy advisor.
“The communities most impacted by drinking water challenges during the last drought were small and rural,” the report says. “Many of the communities that lost, or remain vulnerable to losing, access to safe drinking water contain high proportions of both lower-income and Latino residents.”
Blaine Carian of the Coachella Valley Resource Conservation District claims that Coachella Valley’s water supply is better off than most regions in California, stored in the underground water aquifer.
“We have a lot of years of water in our storage basin,” Carian said in an interview with KESQ News.
According to the Desert Water Agency, if no water conservation efforts were made, there would still be around 100 years’ worth of water stored up in the underground basins. As beneficiaries of the Colorado River, La Quinta and surrounding towns are well-equipped to handle drought.
But perhaps the Desert Water Agency should talk to those living in mobile home parks near the Coral Mountain site, whose water is contaminated with toxic arsenic and unsafe to drink.
So perhaps Coachella Valley will survive the drought, new golf courses and surf parks or not. However, the drought transcends just one area — it’s a multi-state issue that will continue to grow more dire as the climate continues to dry up.
There are plenty of places for people to surf — we don’t need to make the desert one of them. Wealthy people already account for disproportionate water usage, adding a surf resort would only add to that problem. Go to Venice Beach, I hear there are some pretty good waves there.
Patrick Warren is a senior writing about the intersection of sports and climate change. His column “The World of Sports” runs every other Wednesday.”