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 Monterey County Weekly

Cal Am fires its first defensive legal volley against the water district in public buyout case.

An effort toward a public takeover of the private water utility California American Water has taken years to get to this point. Activists asked voters to approve a ballot measure to that end in 2005, and it failed. They tried again in 2014, and lost again. They prevailed in 2018 with the passage of Measure J, which compelled the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District to acquire Cal Am’s local system “if and when feasible.” More than five years later, the matter has moved to the courts. In October 2023, the board of the water district determined that yes, it was feasible—and that it would pursue acquisition of Cal Am’s system. Because the utility company had rejected the public district’s previous offer of $449 million to buy it, the district would proceed by filing an eminent domain case. 

Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

News release: State report identifies future desalination plants to meet statewide water reliability goals

As California continues to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate, the State must work to identify future sources of safe, reliable water for all. This week, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) released a report identifying future planned desalination projects to help meet the brackish water supply goals identified in California’s Water Supply Strategy: Adapting to a Hotter, Drier Future. As a key strategy in the Water Supply Strategy, desalination is the process of removing salts and minerals from brackish water and seawater to produce water suitable for drinking water, irrigation and other supply needs. Brackish water is a mix of freshwater and saltwater and occurs in a natural environment that has more salinity than freshwater, but not as much as seawater. In 2020, over 100,000 acre-feet of brackish water was desalinated for drinking water, which was two-thirds of the desalinated water produced and used in California.

Aquafornia news Fox 13 - Salt Lake City

Bill to find creative ways to bring more water into Utah advances

A water bill that its sponsor says is “generational” is beginning to advance on Utah’s Capitol Hill. Senate Bill 211, being run by Senate President J. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, had its first hearing before the Senate Natural Resources Committee on Monday. … The bill proposes to create a special water commission and appoint a water commissioner to engage in creative ways to bring more water into the state. It may not be a pipeline from the Pacific Ocean to the Great Salt Lake (as lawmakers considered in the past) but other alternatives, like exchanges for water rights. … “Israel gets about 80% of their water from desalination,” Sen. Adams said. “The idea was not to bring a pipeline from the Pacific Ocean, but help California build a desalination plant but we can take some of their water rights and use it in Utah.”

Related article:

Aquafornia news California Globe

Opinion: Comparing the Delta tunnel versus desalination

… One of the biggest concerns about desalination projects is the financial cost to build them. … [A] relevant comparison is the estimated cost for the Huntington Beach Desalination plant versus the estimated cost for the proposed Delta Tunnel. We must bear in mind that the Delta Tunnel, if it is ever built, probably won’t add one drop to California’s water supply.
-Written by Edward Ring, a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president.

Aquafornia news WaterWorld

EMWD interview talks groundwater desalination

In the latest episode of Dropping By from Stormwater Solutions, Joe Mouawad, general manager of the Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD) talks about EMWD’s emphasis on groundwater desalination. EMWD is the sixth largest water retailer in the state of California and serves the fastest growing region in the entire state. The district is making significant investments in drought-resilient water supplies. One of those investments is in groundwater desalination. The district’s groundwater desalination effort is part of its Groundwater Reliability Plus initiative. As part of EMWD’s efforts to improve is drought resilience, the district conveys brackish groundwater to a reverse osmosis facility.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Arizona water-importing proposals dominated by desal plants

Detailed plans for seawater desalination, mostly from Mexican coasts, dominate a list of more than 20 project ideas sent to an Arizona agency for importing water into this increasingly thirsty state. The desalination projects, submitted to the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona, are proposed for all over the region’s map. The locations range from Baja California’s Pacific Coast to Southern California’s coastline to near biosphere reserves in northern Sonora to that Mexican state’s western coastline. One would retrofit and reopen the mothballed Yuma Desalting Plant, built more than 30 years ago but never fully used. The much-discussed, Israeli-based IDE Technologies desal project to bring desalted water by pipeline 200 miles north from Puerto Peñasco, Sonora to the Phoenix area was submitted again to the authority, whose board agreed in late 2022 to negotiate over it but then backed off.

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


Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant in Santa Barbara,  Calif.

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.