Last week, the U.N. hosted a summit on sustainable development,
including access to clean water. I have previously written
about declining water levels in the western U.S. and the use of
desalination to transform seawater into freshwater. Although
over 17,000 desalination plants are operating worldwide, there
are only about 325 in the U.S., with 45% in Florida, 14% in
California, and 9% in Texas. The reason they have not been more
widely adopted is traditionally, they are expensive to build
and use a lot of energy. Most of the desalination plants
operating today heat the salt water and pump it through
specialized membranes that separate the water from the
A local water district is proposing an ambitious plan to turn
ocean water into drinking water, and while the idea of a “Blue
Water Farm” sounds promising, some environmental groups say
that ocean desalination should be a last resort and that more
can be done to conserve water in affluent communities.
Over the last two years, customers of the Las Virgenes
Municipal Water District (LVMWD) have seen restrictions and
fines over how much water they use. [District communications
manager Mike] McNutt added that the water district is
exploring new ways to keep lawns lush and green in big-money
neighborhoods like Calabasas, Westlake Village and Hidden
Hills. … Officials are hoping that they can bring in
precisely 10 million gallons of fresh water a day to the
On September 9th, 2023 the Sixth Appellate District of
California’s Court of Appeals upheld the County of Monterey’s
decision to authorize permits for construction of California
American Water’s Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project
A water district best known for supplying the celebrity-studded
enclaves of Calabasas and Hidden Hills could soon become famous
for a very different reason. The Las Virgenes Municipal Water
District recently partnered with California-based OceanWell to
study the feasibility of harvesting drinking water from
desalination pods placed on the ocean floor, several miles off
the coast of California. The pilot project, which will begin in
Las Virgenes’ reservoir near Westlake Village, hopes to
establish the nation’s first-ever “blue water farm.” … The
process could produce as much as 10 million gallons of fresh
water per day — a significant gain for an inland district
almost entirely reliant on imported supplies.
Innovative water treatment and desalination technologies hold
promise for building climate resilience, realizing a circular
water economy, and bolstering water security. However, more
research and development is critical not only to radically
lower the cost and energy of such technologies, but to
effectively treat unconventional water sources. Conventional
water supplies, such as fresh water and groundwater, are
typically used once and thrown away, rendering this valuable
and finite resource inaccessible for further use. Since its
launch in 2019, the National Alliance for Water Innovation
(NAWI) has made strides in developing new technologies to
economically treat, use, and recycle unconventional waters
(such as brackish groundwater, municipal and industrial
wastewater, and agricultural run-off), which could point to a
future where water equity and security is accessible to all.
It’s been nearly a year since the California Coastal Commission
gave an Orange County water district the green
light to build a new desalination plant in Dana Point. So
I decided to check in to see how the project is coming along.
In not surprising news, the plant’s price tag has gotten a
bit bigger while its timeline has gotten a bit longer. But the
project is still advancing, and it’s serving as a model for
water regulators as they develop a new set of guidelines aimed
at making the ocean a bigger source of California drinking
water going forward. Here are 10 things to know about the
Doheny desalination plant. If it’s built, Doheny would be
the second largest desalination plant in California, capable of
producing 5 million gallons of water each day. There is
potential to scale Doheny up down the line, to make as much as
15 million gallons a day. But the biggest plant, in Carlsbad,
produces 50 million gallons each day.
OceanWell and Las Virgenes Municipal Water District (LVMWD)
announced today their partnership to pilot California’s
first-ever Blue Water farm. LVMWD Board of Directors
unanimously approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that
paves the way for the public/private partnership to research an
environment-first approach that addresses the increasing
concern of water scarcity and reliability. Blue Water is fresh
water harvested from the deep ocean or other raw water sources.
This, first-of-its-kind project, will test OceanWell’s
proprietary water purification technology to produce safe,
clean drinking water without the environmental impacts of
traditional coastal desalination methods.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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
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. 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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
“Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” – Samuel
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.