Topic: Desalination



Recurrent droughts and uncertainties about future water supplies have led several California communities to look to saltwater for supplemental supplies through a process known as desalination.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

As drought grips Catalina, desalination keeps crisis at bay

Island-dweller Lori Snell grimaced as she tallied her bill recently at the Avalon Laundry — nearly $50 for three large loads. … That preoccupation with water has now become critical as severe drought grips California and its Channel Islands — a rugged, eight-isle archipelago that hosts several human outposts and a handful of species that exist nowhere else on Earth. But although some of the island’s wildlife is struggling for survival, conditions for humans are a little different today than in droughts past, due largely to a desalination plant that opened in Avalon in 2016. The plant today provides about 40% of Avalon’s drinking water.

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Aquafornia news Santa Clara University

Blog: A straw in the ocean

In some of the most arid places around the world, more than 16,000 seawater desalination systems enable countries from Saudi Arabia to Israel, Morocco to Australia, to remove salt from ocean water to generate fresh drinking water. Well before before California entered its driest period on record, Gov. Gavin Newsom ’89 has supported building a second major coastal desalination plant as a partial solution to the Golden State’s water woes. 

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Aquafornia news KCET - Los Angeles

Can desalination be a solution for drought in SoCal?

California is currently suffering through its worst drought in over 1,200 years, a fact painfully illustrated by a hot, dry summer, nearly empty reservoirs, and a historically diminished Colorado River. New water restrictions have gone into effect across the state. As California scrambles to conserve water, desalination plants, facilities that use reverse osmosis filters to purify seawater and transform it into drinking water, have increasingly become part of the discussion.

Aquafornia news Center Square

After $100 million Huntington Beach denial, what’s the future of desalination in California?

After a high profile, decades-long battle to build a desalination plant in Huntington Beach ended in denial, all eyes will be on the California Coastal Commission as it considers whether or not to approve two smaller desalination projects this fall. Commissioners are tentatively scheduled to consider the Doheny Ocean Desalination project in October. The project, based in Orange County, could produce up to 5 million gallons of potable water per day, according to the project’s environmental impact report. The project is expected to cost $140 million, and $32.4 million in grants have been secured thus far, Southern California Water District Public Information Specialist Sheena Johnson told The Center Square.

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Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Marin water district vets desalination, recycled water cost

The Marin Municipal Water District took a deeper look at some of the more complex and expensive options on the table for new supply: desalination plants and recycled water. The district board and consultants with the Jacobs Engineering firm held discussion Tuesday on the preliminary cost estimates, water yields and challenges of building desalination plants and expanding the district’s recycled water system.

Aquafornia news NPR - WHYY

Climate change means some coastal groundwater may soon be too salty to drink. What can cities do?

Picture the ocean shore, but underground, there’s a line where the freshwater and the seawater meet, called the salt line. This salt line moves with the tides. But rising sea levels and an increase of people living by the shore tapping into freshwater underground can also pull more saltwater from the ocean toward the land. … [P]laces all around the U.S. and the world are now starting to study this problem. … California is going through drought conditions. Aridification refers to the climate getting drier in the long term, not just in seasonal drought cycles.

Aquafornia news The Log

Catalina Island and SoCal Edison’s desalination plants are quenching thirst

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Southern California Edison’s (SCE) first desalination plant on Catalina Island. The desalination process strips salt out of ocean water from two underground saltwater beach wells to make it drinkable. The desalination plant was considered a developing technology in 1992. It was the first ocean water to drinking water plant on the West Coast and one of the first prototypes in the country. SCE built the first desalination plant in response to the development of the nearby Hamilton Cove condominiums and the drought in the late 1980s.

Aquafornia news Capitol Weekly

Blog: Desalination – Should California use the ocean to quench its thirst?

This May, the California Coastal Commission unanimously rejected the proposed $1.4 billion dollar Huntington Beach Desalination Plant for environmental reasons. Set on a low-lying coastal site, the Commission was concerned that the facility’s location exposed it to rising sea levels, and that its process for converting 50 million gallons of drinking water per day would harm marine life in 100 billion gallons of seawater each year. … Gov. Newsom supported the plant, calling desal “more tools in the tool kit,” … So who do you believe?

Aquafornia news KCRW

Saltwater toilets and stormwater drains: How to beat drought

There are two schools of thought on how to navigate the West’s historic drought: Use less water or find new ways to make more of it usable. A few cities are trying to do both, and so far, it’s spared them from some of the most stringent drought restrictions. In the last drought, Santa Monica used to rely heavily on water imported from Northern California. But now less than half of Santa Monica’s water is imported, which spared them from the mandatory outdoor water restrictions that began at the beginning of June.

Aquafornia news Voice of OC

Is Poseidon’s Huntington Beach desal plant proposal gone for good?

After more than 20 years, a June letter to Southern California water officials might spell the end for the Poseidon Water company’s desalinated dreams in Huntington Beach, once and for all.  The fatal blow came in May, from within the Hilton in Costa Mesa, where California Coastal Commissioners unanimously rejected Poseidon’s bid to build a desalting plant by the AES generating station in the city’s south end. In striking the project down, commissioners cited what would be higher water rates, marine life loss, and impacts to poor households already living near industrial areas, from a project that would have taken 100 million daily gallons of seawater, desalted half of it, and discharged the other half back as saltier brine.

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Aquafornia news Press Enterprise

New water plant in Menifee removes salt, fights drought

A plant that removes salt from water is now running in Menifee, giving officials another tool to reduce their reliance on imported water as California’s drought continues. The Eastern Municipal Water District opened its third groundwater desalination plant, the Perris II Groundwater Desalination Facility, on Thursday, June 23. The plant will remove salt from underground water basins tapped by wells in Perris — nearly 5.4 million gallons of water per day, according to the water district. 

Aquafornia news ABC7 Los Angeles

New water desalination plant in Menifee will provide 15,000 homes with clean groundwater

Neighborhoods throughout Menifee and Sun City show evidence of water conservation. Front yards are no longer covered with grass, but are covered with decorative rock instead. Not to be outdone, the water agency that serves the area just unveiled its third water desalination facility. The plant will allow Eastern Municipal Water District to treat underground water that’s too salty to drink and make it safe to consume.

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Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Marin district to vet costs, benefits of new water sources

Marin Municipal Water District will hold a series of meetings focused on adding new water sources. The district, which serves 191,000 central and southern Marin residents, launched a water supply study in March as it faced depleting its local reservoir supplies after two years of severe drought. On Tuesday, staff will provide the district Board of Directors a first-time overview of the various water supply options the agency could consider as it looks to bolster its supply … desalination, increasing local reservoir storage, groundwater banking in Sonoma County, increasing water imports from the Russian River, expansion of recycled water systems, conservation measures and a pipeline across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Pipelines? Desalination? Turf removal? Arizona commits $1B to augment, conserve water supplies

The Colorado River’s precipitous decline pushed Arizona lawmakers to deliver Gov. Doug Ducey’s $1 billion water augmentation fund — and then some — late Friday, their final night in session. Before the votes, the growing urgency for addressing the state’s oncoming water shortage and the long timeline for approving and building new water projects nearly sank the legislation. 

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Aquafornia news Dana Point Times

In wake of Poseidon desal plant’s denial, South Coast Water looks to fill hole in county’s water portfolio

As the State of California faces a record drought, ocean desalination has been highlighted as a potentially more reliable alternative to imported water. Following the California Coastal Commission’s (CCC) unanimous vote to deny permits for the Brookfield-Poseidon Desalination plant in Huntington Beach last month, the South Coast Water District (SCWD) is working to obtain all major permits for its own desalination plant near Doheny by the end of the year. The local water district is looking to produce up to five million gallons of potable drinking water a day by 2027 through its proposed Doheny Ocean Desalination project. 

Aquafornia news Eastern Municipal Water District

News release: EMWD dedicates third desalination facility

Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD) today celebrated the opening of its new groundwater desalination facility, which will provide additional local water supply reliability to its service area for future generations. The Perris II Desalination Facility is EMWD’s third groundwater desalter and will provide enough water for more than 15,000 households each year through its reverse osmosis treatment process. The facility is located in Menifee, adjacent to the existing Menifee I and Perris I desalters.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

Often Short of Water, California’s Southern Central Coast Builds Toward A Drought-Proof Supply
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Water agencies in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo counties look to seawater, recycled water to protect against water shortages

The spillway at Lake Cachuma in central Santa Barbara County. Drought in 2016 plunged its storage to about 8 percent of capacity.The southern part of California’s Central Coast from San Luis Obispo County to Ventura County, home to about 1.5 million people, is blessed with a pleasing Mediterranean climate and a picturesque terrain. Yet while its unique geography abounds in beauty, the area perpetually struggles with drought.

Indeed, while the rest of California breathed a sigh of relief with the return of wet weather after the severe drought of 2012–2016, places such as Santa Barbara still grappled with dry conditions.

With Drought Plan in Place, Colorado River Stakeholders Face Even Tougher Talks Ahead On The River’s Future
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Talks are about to begin on a potentially sweeping agreement that could reimagine how the Colorado River is managed

Lake Mead, behind Hoover Dam, shows the effects of nearly two decades of drought. Even as stakeholders in the Colorado River Basin celebrate the recent completion of an unprecedented drought plan intended to stave off a crashing Lake Mead, there is little time to rest. An even larger hurdle lies ahead as they prepare to hammer out the next set of rules that could vastly reshape the river’s future.

Set to expire in 2026, the current guidelines for water deliveries and shortage sharing, launched in 2007 amid a multiyear drought, were designed to prevent disputes that could provoke conflict.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Flood Management Gary Pitzer

Southern California Water Providers Think Local in Seeking to Expand Supplies
WESTERN WATER SIDEBAR: Los Angeles and San Diego among agencies pursuing more diverse water portfolio beyond imports

The Claude “Bud” Lewis Desalination Plant in Carlsbad last December marked 40 billion gallons of drinking water delivered to San Diego County during its first three years of operation. The desalination plant provides the county with more than 50 million gallons of water each day.Although Santa Monica may be the most aggressive Southern California water provider to wean itself from imported supplies, it is hardly the only one looking to remake its water portfolio.

In Los Angeles, a city of about 4 million people, efforts are underway to dramatically slash purchases of imported water while boosting the amount from recycling, stormwater capture, groundwater cleanup and conservation. Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2014 announced a plan to reduce the city’s purchase of imported water from Metropolitan Water District by one-half by 2025 and to provide one-half of the city’s supply from local sources by 2035. (The city considers its Eastern Sierra supplies as imported water.)

Central Coast Tour 2019
Field Trip - November 6-7

This 2-day, 1-night tour offered participants the opportunity to learn about water issues affecting California’s scenic Central Coast and efforts to solve some of the challenges of a region struggling to be sustainable with limited local supplies that have potential applications statewide.

Western Water Magazine

Tapping the Ocean: What is the Role of Desalination?
Winter 2016

This issue looks at the role of ocean desalination in meeting California’s water needs today and in the future.

Western Water Magazine

Tapping the World’s Largest Reservoir: Desalination
January/February 2003

This issue examines desalination and the role it could play in the future of water supply. In addition to an explanation of the basics of the technology, the article looks at costs, environmental impacts and groundwater application. Pilot desalination projects are featured, including a much-touted Carlsbad, Calif., facility that promises to substantially boost that region’s water supply.

Western Water Magazine

Desalination: A Drought Proof Supply?
July/August 2009

This printed issue of Western Water examines desalination – an issue that is marked by great optimism and controversy – and the expected role it might play as an alternative water supply strategy.

Western Water Magazine

Making the Connection: The Water/Energy Nexus
September/October 2010

This printed issue of Western Water looks at the energy requirements associated with water use and the means by which state and local agencies are working to increase their knowledge and improve the management of both resources.

Western Water Magazine

Viewing Water with a Wide Angle Lens: A Roundtable Discussion
January/February 2013

This printed issue of Western Water features a roundtable discussion with Anthony Saracino, a water resources consultant; Martha Davis, executive manager of policy development with the Inland Empire Utilities Agency and senior policy advisor to the Delta Stewardship Council; Stuart Leavenworth, editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee and Ellen Hanak, co-director of research and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California.


A Climate of Change: Water Adaptation Strategies

This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an excellent overview of climate change and how it is already affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are underway to plan and adapt to climate.


Salt of the Earth: Salinity in California’s Central Valley

Salt. In a small amount, it’s a gift from nature. But any doctor will tell you, if you take in too much salt, you’ll start to have health problems. The same negative effect is happening to land in the Central Valley. The problem scientists call “salinity” poses a growing threat to our food supply, our drinking water quality and our way of life. The problem of salt buildup and potential – but costly – solutions are highlighted in this 2008 public television documentary narrated by comedian Paul Rodriguez.


Salt of the Earth: Salinity in California’s Central Valley (20-minute DVD)

A 20-minute version of the 2008 public television documentary Salt of the Earth: Salinity in California’s Central Valley. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues surrounding the problem of salt build up in the Central Valley potential – but costly – solutions. Narrated by comedian Paul Rodriquez.


Stormwater Management: Turning Runoff into a Resource

20-minute DVD that explains the problem with polluted stormwater, and steps that can be taken to help prevent such pollution and turn what is often viewed as a “nuisance” into a water resource through various activities.


Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst (60-minute DVD)

Many Californians don’t realize that when they turn on the faucet, the water that flows out could come from a source close to home or one hundreds of miles away. Most people take their water for granted; not thinking about the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state. Where drinking water comes from, how it’s treated, and what people can do to protect its quality are highlighted in this 2007 PBS documentary narrated by actress Wendie Malick. 


Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst (30-minute DVD)

A 30-minute version of the 2007 PBS documentary Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues surrounding the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state.


Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management
Published 2013

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background information on the principles of IRWM, its funding history and how it differs from the traditional water management approach.


Layperson’s Guide to Water Recycling
Updated 2013

As the state’s population continues to grow and traditional water supplies grow tighter, there is increased interest in reusing treated wastewater for a variety of activities, including irrigation of crops, parks and golf courses, groundwater recharge and industrial uses.

Aquapedia background

Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Salinity

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta always has been at the mercy of river flows and brackish tides.

Before human intervention, salty ocean water from the San Francisco Bay flooded the vast Delta marshes during dry summers when mountain runoff ebbed. Then, during winter, heavy runoff from the mountains repelled sea water intrusion.

Aquapedia background



Recurrent droughts and uncertainties about future water supplies have led several California communities to look to treat salty water for supplemental supplies through a process known as desalination.

Desalination removes salt and other dissolved minerals from water and is one method to reclaim water for other uses. This can occur with ocean water along the coast and in the interior at spots that draw from ancient salt water deep under the surface or where groundwater has been tainted by too much salt.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Desalination: A Drought Proof Supply?
July/August 2009

It seems not a matter of if but when seawater desalination will fulfill the promise of providing parts of California with a reliable, drought-proof source of water. With a con­tinuing drought and uncertain water deliveries, the state is in the grip of a full-on water crisis, and there are many people who see desalination as a way to provide some relief to areas struggling to maintain an adequate water supply.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Tapping the World’s Largest Reservoir: Desalination
Jan/Feb 2003

“Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
For time immemorial, the seas of the Earth have been seen as an enticing but unreachable source of fresh water. Separating the salt from ocean water was always a cost prohibitive process, primarily reserved to wealthy Middle Eastern nations and small-scale operations such as ocean-bound vessels and small islands. Otherwise, through the evolution of modern civilization, man has depended upon lakes, rivers and groundwater – a supply that comprises less than 3 percent of the planet’s total water.