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 The Mendocino Voice

Fort Bragg considering wave energy-powered desalination in latest novel water move

Fort Bragg, long powered by timber, fishing and tourist economies, is getting notice statewide for its push to create monetary green out of the Blue Economy, state officials said. … For Fort Bragg, Blue Economy leadership is also helping to  create innovative solutions to the ever-worsening water shortage the city faces. The City of Fort Bragg is ground zero for Oneka Technologies, a Canadian company working all over the world with wave energy to make freshwater. The company found Fort Bragg a willing partner to test its revolutionary wave energy-powered desalination device on the West Coast, a place that Oneka Technologies CEO and cofounder Dragan Tutic wants to be. After a presentation before the council, the city and Oneka put together a bid for a $1.5 million state grant that is now pending.

Aquafornia news The Jewish News of Northern California

Israel’s S.F. consul: Israel has water expertise aplenty to offer California

Citing Israel’s extraordinary success in meeting its agricultural and household water needs, Marco Sermoneta told a recent gathering of water industry professionals that his country has much to offer other regions facing the dire problem of water scarcity. … Sermoneta, who has been on the job since August, was speaking at the Association of California Water Agencies fall conference and exhibition, held Nov. 29-Dec. 1 in Indian Wells, near Palm Desert. The event featured more than 40 programs, workshops and roundtable conversations examining topics such as water management, affordable drinking water and water supply. ACWA is a statewide coalition of public water agencies.

Aquafornia news The Hill

Dried up: In California, desalination offers only partial solution to growing drought

As water in the Western U.S. becomes an increasingly rare commodity, the driest states are grasping at solutions for an even drier future — investing heavily in technologies to maximize the conservation, and creation, of the region’s most precious resource. … With more than a thousand miles of Pacific Ocean coastline, California appears to have access to a wellspring that other arid states lack. The technology to transform that unlimited sea supply into potable drinking water has existed for decades, through a process called desalination. Yet while two new desalination plants have received approvals in the past couple months, California’s coast isn’t exactly teeming with such facilities.

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Aquafornia news KALW - San Francisco

Listen: Is desalination the right solution to California’s drought problems?

On this edition of Your Call, we’ll discuss the California Coastal Commission’s recent approval of a controversial desalination plant in Monterey County. The plan was approved 9 years after it was first proposed, following 13 hours of debate at a public hearing. Proponents of the plan view desalination as a critical source of drinking water in a drought-starved region. Environmental justice advocates argue the plant could raise costs for low income residents and harm marine life and other wildlife habitats. What is the future for desalination in the west, during an era of climate-induced mega-droughts?

Aquafornia news KCRW - Los Angeles

To desal or not? Ocean water may be last resort for drought-stricken CA

The California Coastal Commission recently approved the construction of two more desalination plants, one near Monterey, and one by Dana Point. This adds to the four already providing drinking water in the state. But in 2020, this same commission advised not to build the Monterey plant. What changed?  The state has faced its driest three years on record, and it needs more potable water for its almost 40 million residents, especially the ones living on the coast. …  Many countries in the Middle East, and even parts of the United States, rely almost exclusively on desalinated water, which is ocean water with the salt and other impurities removed. Nevertheless, there are significant costs in terms of energy needed for the desalination process and environmental damage. In the case of the plant near Monterey, local residents complained about other factors too.

Aquafornia news The Daily Independent

News release: ASU tapped to lead statewide water initiative

Arizona State University and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced Nov. 16 that the university will lead a multi-year Arizona Water Innovation Initiative to provide immediate, actionable and evidence-based solutions to ensure that Arizona will continue to thrive with a secure future water supply, according to a news release.  Ducey has committed resources and has asked ASU to work with industrial, municipal, agricultural, tribal and international partners to rapidly accelerate and deploy new approaches and technology for water conversation, augmentation, desalination, efficiency, infrastructure, and reuse.

Aquafornia news Monterey County Weekly

Coastal Commission approves Cal Am’s desal plant in Marina, but many hurdles remain.

After more than a decade in the trying, a major desalination plant to serve the Monterey Peninsula has cleared a significant hurdle—in theory, at least. In a 13-hour meeting that adjourned just after 10pm on Thursday, Nov. 17, the California Coastal Commission approved a conditional coastal development permit for California American Water, the private water utility that serves the greater Monterey Peninsula, to build a desalination project in neighboring Marina, a city whose residents are vehemently opposed to it, and who would not be served by it. One thing that was continually brought up during the meeting, and that was acknowledged in the Coastal Commission’s staff report that recommended approval (with many conditions, some potentially insurmountable), is that the project is rife with complexity, both from technical and environmental justice standpoints. … One question that remained unanswered was who would pay for the project.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Controversial Monterey Bay desalination plant approved

The California Coastal Commission [Thursday night] approved another desalination plant, despite citing its high costs, risks to Monterey Bay’s environment and “the most significant environmental justice issues” the commission has faced in recent years.  The commission’s divided, 8-to-2 vote came after 13 hours of debate at a Salinas public hearing packed with several hundred people, plus more crammed into overflow space. Many of the 375 who signed up to speak opposed the project — some in tears. Much of the debate focused on the fairness of locating a for-profit company’s facility in the Monterey County city of Marina — which does not need the water and is home to designated disadvantaged neighborhoods. The expensive supply will flow to other communities, including the whiter, wealthy enclaves of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach. 

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Aquafornia news Monterey County Weekly

Opinion: All the spin on desalination makes it easy to forget what’s at stake

In 1995, Bill Clinton was president, Pixar produced Toy Story (the first fully computer-animated feature film), and a NATO offensive ended war in Bosnia. It was also the year the California State Water Resources Control Board determined that California American Water was pumping roughly three times more water from the Carmel River than it is legally entitled to. The board issued Order 95-10, requiring Cal Am to cut back its use of river water to the legal limit. Here we are, 27 years later, and the cease-and-desist order is still in effect. … And that brings us to the issue du jour, a controversial desalination plant proposed by Cal Am, set to go before the California Coastal Commission for a vote on Thursday, Nov. 17. There are a lot of reasons to object to this project …
-Written by Sara Rubin, editor of the Monterey County Weekly. 

Aquafornia news Monterey County Weekly

Opinion: This is a big week for water in Monterey County.

[On Thursday, Nov. 17 at 9am the Public Utilities Commission] will consider whether to grant a permit to Cal Am to build a 4.8 million-gallons per day (mgd) desalination project that would draw its source water through subsurface slant wells from under the beach in Marina, on property owned by Cemex, whose sand mine on the property has now been shut down.  One elephant in the room, which is completely omitted from the Coastal Commission’s staff report—which recommends that the commission approve the project, with conditions—is that it doesn’t address who would pay for the unused capacity of the desal plant. Right now, if Pure Water Monterey expansion is approved, there is no projected demand for more water for at least 20 years.
-Written by David Schmalz, Monterey County Weekly columnist.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: The Monterey area may get a huge desalination plant. Is this the future of California’s water supply?

With California butting up against 840 miles of ocean, desalination seems an obvious solution to the state’s water woes. However, the cost, energy demands and environmental impacts have made the technology largely unworkable. Three years of drought may be changing the calculus. The latest push for desalination is on the Monterey Peninsula, where a plan for a plant, which has faced more than a decade of hurdles, is poised to win approval this week from the California Coastal Commission. The $300 million-plus proposal calls for pumping seawater from wells beneath Monterey Bay, near the city of Marina, and piping it ashore to the popular tourist region to help relieve a longtime water shortage…  the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, which works with Cal Am to ensure water for the area, said the new supply could run as much as $7,000 per acre foot. 

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Aquafornia news Monterey County Weekly

The future of the Monterey Peninsula’s water supply comes before two state boards next week

Thursday, Nov. 17 is shaping up to be a momentous day for the future of the Monterey Peninsula’s water supply, as two major state boards – the California Coastal Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission – are set to weigh in on two separate projects that aim to add supply to the local portfolio. Arguably, the more weighty of the two hearings is the Coastal Commission’s, which is meeting for three days in the Board of Supervisors chambers in Salinas. In those chambers on Nov. 17, the commissioners will consider whether to grant a coastal development permit to California American Water for its proposed desalination project in Marina, which has been a lightning rod for controversy since first being proposed nearly a decade ago.

Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

Corpus Christi sold its water to Exxon, gambling on desalination. So far, it’s losing the bet

Five years ago, when ExxonMobil came calling, city officials eagerly signed over a large portion of their water supply so the oil giant could build a $10 billion plant to make plastics out of methane gas.  A year later, they did the same for Steel Dynamics to build a rolled-steel factory.  Never mind that Corpus Christi, a mid-sized city on the semi-arid South Texas coast, had just raced through its 50-year water plan 13 years ahead of schedule. Planners believed they had a solution: large-scale seawater desalination. According to the plan in 2019, the state’s first plant needed to be running by early 2023 to safely meet industrial water demands that were scheduled to come online. But Corpus Christi never got it done.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

How can California boost its water supply?

Over and over again, drought launches California into a familiar scramble to provide enough water. Cities and towns call for conservation and brace for shortages. Growers fallow fields and ranchers sell cows. And thousands of people discover that they can’t squeeze another drop from their wells. So where can California get enough water to survive the latest dry stretch — and the next one, and the next? Can it pump more water from the salty Pacific Ocean? Treat waste flushed down toilets and washed down drains? Capture runoff that flows off streets into storm drains? Tow Antarctic icebergs to Los Angeles? The Newsom administration unveiled a roadmap for bolstering the state water supply.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

They used to call California ocean desalination a disaster. But water crisis brings new look

For decades, environmentalists have decried ocean desalination as an ecological disaster, while cost-savvy water managers have thumbed their noses at desal’s lofty price tag. But as the American Southwest barrels into a new era of extreme heat, drought and aridification, officials and conservationists are giving new consideration to the process of converting saltwater into drinking water, and the role it may play in California’s future. Although desalination requires significant energy, California’s current extended drought has revived interest in the technology. Experts are already experimenting with new concepts such as mobile desalination units and floating buoys, and at least four major plants will soon be operational along the state’s coastline.

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Aquafornia news San Diego County Water Authority

News release: Carlsbad desalination plant celebrates 100 billion gallons served

The Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant has served more than 100 billion gallons of high-quality, locally controlled water over the past seven years – a milestone passed in late October, as California entered a fourth consecutive year of severe drought. The plant produces an average of more than 50 million gallons of high-quality, locally controlled water every day. It’s a foundational water supply for the San Diego region that minimizes vulnerability to drought and other water supply emergencies. The facility is the largest, most technologically advanced and energy-efficient desalination plant in the nation, and it has provided a sustainable water supply to residents and businesses in San Diego County since December 2015.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Why desalination should be a California water priority

If the climate crisis is coming, the water crisis is already here.  As rice fields were fallowed in California, Lake Mead water levels almost sunk so low that Hoover Dam could no longer generate power … Thirty percent of the world population will face water shortages of some kind by 2025. … The water crisis will only be solved if we realize the once quixotic vision of desalination, turning seawater into freshwater. Today, roughly 18,000 desalination plants produce around 1% of the world’s freshwater, with production concentrated in regions of high water scarcity such as Israel and Australia. … The desalination process is so energy-intensive that desalination plants often require carbon-emitting power plants right next door, which can increase costs up to 10 times higher than groundwater.
-Written by Dr. Grayson Zulauf, a clean energy entrepreneur and CEO of Resonant Link.

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Aquafornia news Spectrum News 1

Easing the drought: Answers are right in front of our eyes

With longer and more frequent droughts happening around the globe, technologies are advancing to help ease the effects of drought and bring fresh water to dry climates. Fog catching, desalination and atmospheric water harvesting are three techniques used to help mitigate water shortages around the globe. 

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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.