In his Aug. 2 Herald commentary, Grant Leonard claimed that Cal
Am’s proposed Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project would be
a win-win for both Castroville, a disadvantaged community, and
Carmel, which is on the other side of the economic spectrum.
Some things challenge that claim.
The Regional Water Quality Control Board concluded three days
of hearings on the project’s next permit by telling Poseidon it
must return with a more robust, more detailed mitigation plan
to offset the environmental damage the project will cause.
The Santa Barbara City Council unanimously passed a motion
Tuesday to introduce and subsequently adopt an ordinance
authorizing a grant funding agreement with the State Department
of Water Resources in the amount of $10 million for
reactivation of the Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant.
As Poseidon Water pursues the final government approvals needed
to build one of the country’s biggest seawater desalination
plants, the company still cannot definitively say who will buy
the 50 million gallons a day of drinking water it wants to
produce on the Orange County coast. That’s one of several
questions that continue to dog the $1-billion Huntington Beach
The Santa Barbara City Council voted 7-0 on Tuesday to accept a
$10 million grant — with the understanding that it will run the
plant at full capacity for at least 36 out of the next 40
years. Some environmentalists objected to the council’s
decision, citing environmental concerns.
Regional water board member Kris Murray is on track later this
week to vote on a controversial desalination plant sponsored by
a company and interest groups she took money from during past
The grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of
Reclamation will be used for the desalter plant that will treat
brackish groundwater from the nearby Pleasant Valley
Groundwater Basin. The filtered water will account for 40% of
the city’s overall water supply once the facility is finished.
After hearings this week for one of two remaining major permits
needed for the project, several members of the Regional Water
Quality Control Board indicated they were dissatisfied with the
proposed mitigation for the larvae and other small marine life
that would die as a result of the plant’s ocean intake pipes.
Poseidon Resources wants to build a $1.4 billion desalination
plant near a power plant that is about to be shut down. They
say it could produce 50 million gallons of water per day,
enough for about 100,000 Orange County homes. Friday marked the
second day of hearings before the Santa Ana Regional Water
Quality Control Board. Its approval is needed for the plant to
discharge salty brine left over from the treated water.
The 20-year battle between seawater desalters and Orange County
environmentalists and community activists neared a turning
point Thursday, the first in a series of final public hearings
around a Huntington Beach desalination plant proposal before
local regulators. Hearings and public comments at the state
regional water board started Thursday, are continuing today…
Poseidon Water’s seawater desalination plant in Huntington
Beach, first proposed in 1998, could be getting closer to
beginning construction after more than two decades. The Santa
Ana Regional Water Board will hold online hearings this week
and decide whether to issue Poseidon a permit.
After more than 20 years of developing plans for a Huntington
Beach desalination plant and winding its way through a
seemingly endless bureaucratic approval process, Poseidon Water
comes to a key juncture as the Regional Water Quality Control
Board votes on whether to grant a permit after hearings this
On Wednesday, the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control
Board issued a staff report recommending approval of a
tentative order making amendments to and renewing its operating
permit first issued in 2006 for the proposed Huntington Beach
Public support for proposed desalination plants in Huntington
Beach and Dana Point appears strong in two recent polls,
although opponents call the surveys biased and say neither poll
addresses key obstacles facing these very different projects.
In separate actions Tuesday, Metropolitan’s Board of Directors
voted to provide $115 million to the San Diego County Water
Authority and its project partners for water produced by the
East County Advanced Water Purification Project in Santee and
the Escondido Filtration Reverse Osmosis Facility.
California American Water officials are defending the company’s
proposed desalination project in response to the Monterey
Peninsula Water Management District’s move last month to
formally oppose it at the Coastal Commission in favor of a
proposed recycled water expansion.
It seems some are willing to wait forever for a new water
supply. After 25 years of failure, they still trust Cal Am to
come up with a solution. But the Monterey Peninsula Water
Management District is clearly done waiting. Last Monday, the
district board withdrew its support for Cal Am’s proposed desal
The Montecito Water District took a major step forward to
improve long-term water supply security and reliability during
a special meeting on Thursday. The water district Board of
Directors voted unanimously to adopt a resolution approving a
50-year water supply agreement between the MWD and the City of
Researchers at Stanford are working on a technology that may be
needed more than ever over the next decade, especially if new
predictions are accurate. … “To us, desalination is kind of
the wave of the future,” says Stanford researcher William
Tarpeh, Ph.D. Tarpeh and colleagues have been refining a
technology that could eventually make widespread desalination
cheaper, and safer for the environment.
For the first time, the Monterey Peninsula Water Management
District has formally expressed opposition to the California
American Water desalination project, backing the proposed Pure
Water Monterey recycled water project expansion instead… At
the same time, the district took another step toward potential
acquisition of Cal Am’s Monterey water system with the release
of a draft environmental impact report on the proposed public
To a large extent, the fate of several multi-million dollar
water projects on the Monterey Peninsula is in the hands of the
California Coastal Commission. The question is whether the
commission will grant a development permit for a desalination
plant proposed by California American Water…
With its proposed Doheny desalination plant facing hurdles
because of costs and a lack of partner water districts, the
South Coast Water District board has agreed to spend $73,000 to
study a scaled-down alternative.
A Pure Water Monterey expansion proposal has narrowly survived
another attempt to shelve it indefinitely even as the main
recycled water project struggles with operational and cost
issues that have further postponed its water delivery date and
hampered its capacity.
Marine life mitigation, the need for desalinated water in
Orange County and the overall merits of Poseidon Water’s plan
to build a $1 billion desalination plant in Huntington Beach
were some of the main talking points of a 10-hour virtual
workshop, held on May 15. Highlighting the marathon of a
workshop: pointed questions about the merits of Poseidon’s
Over email, local water activists concocted a secret plan to
derail a vote that would potentially kill one water project and
bolster the prospects of another. The idea was to stage a
“filibuster” of the Monterey One Water board meeting scheduled
for Tuesday, May 26.
The Poseidon desalination plant proposed for Huntington Beach
could be facing rough waters ahead, as several regulatory
officials on Friday expressed concerns over the controversial
plan.. During a Regional Water Quality Control Board workshop
held online, three of the agency’s six board members
persistently pressed local officials about the need, consumer
cost and environmental harm of the $1 billion project.
The board of Monterey One Water recently voted not to certify a
supplemental environmental impact report (SEIR) for an
expansion of Pure Water Monterey. While the expansion was a
technical concept that might provide additional water for the
Peninsula, the Board action injected some much-needed clear
thinking and foresight into a critical topic for the Monterey
Monterey Peninsula Water Management District officials have
requested the Monterey One Water board certify the Pure Water
Monterey expansion project supplemental environmental impact
report within 30 days and is withholding more than $600,000
representing part of its share of the environmental review.
Today, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the launch of
the $9 million American-Made Challenges: Solar Desalination
Prize, a competition to accelerate the development of systems
that use solar-thermal energy to produce clean water from
A proposed Pure Water Monterey expansion at the center of a
contentious debate over the future of the Monterey Peninsula’s
water supply hit a huge roadblock on Monday night, leaving its
future in serious doubt.
A 10-person crew is in the midst of a three-week
shelter-in-place shift at the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad
Desalination Plant, relieving an initial crew that
self-quarantined on site for three weeks to continue producing
clean drinking water for county residents amid the COVID-19
If you’re a Central Valley farmer and haven’t yet been hit up
by someone about reusing crummy water for irrigation — just
wait. Companies are springing up all over with the latest gizmo
they believe will take nasty, salty water, mostly from shallow
aquifers on the valley’s west side or oilfield produced water,
and make clean “new” irrigation water.
The agreement pays Antioch $27 million, which guarantees that
they will be able to utilize its 150-year old water rights and
remain in the Delta for the long-term. The $27 million, in
addition to $43 million in State grants and loans, completes
the financing for the $70m Brackish Water Desalination Plant.
The basics of the relationship between water and energy are
well known, but California’s recent drought revealed something
surprising about this connection. When the state mandated a 25
percent drop in water use, the resulting energy savings turned
out to be even higher than expected. This prompted the
Department of Energy to find ways of making water more energy
As of Friday, 10 workers are quarantined inside the Claude
“Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plan for the next three
weeks, monitoring and adjusting gauges and switches, watching
for leaks, and doing whatever is needed to safeguard San Diego
County’s only significant local source of drinking water. …
The “mission critical” employees will work 12-hour shifts,
sleep in rented recreational vehicles in the parking lot, and
be resupplied with fresh food left for them at the plant’s
Fresh water shortages have made desalination a possible
solution for supplementing the overall water supply. To address
this issue, a team of industry professionals and researchers
have formed National Alliance of Water and Innovation to
jointly examine the critical technical barriers and research
needed to lower the energy cost of desalination and other water
The contraption, reminiscent of Rube Goldberg, would produce
two of Southern California’s most precious and essential
resources: water and electricity. … The idea, developed by
Silicon Valley-based Neal Aronson and his Oceanus Power & Water
venture, caught the attention of the Santa Margarita Water
District. The agency quickly saw the project’s viability to
fill a void.
Extracting salt from water seems like an easy fix to a global
problem, but the process of desalination can be expensive, and
it can also have a huge impact on the environment. That’s why
some researchers are looking into how to lower the cost and
California American Water has received a 90-day extension of
the deadline for the Coastal Commission to consider the
company’s desalination project permit application, effectively
allowing commission staff about four more months to complete
Coastal Commission staff has recommended California American
Water withdraw and resubmit a coastal development permit
application involving the company’s proposed Monterey Peninsula
desalination project, which would likely postpone a hearing on
the desal permit and a pending appeal until September at the
Eight years after the regional desalination project fell apart,
the legal battle over its unraveling appears to be nearing a
conclusion. A proposed settlement has been reached among the
parties involved… It was presented on Monday in the San
Francisco Superior Court overseeing the long-running lawsuit.
Understanding why desalination is so critical to California’s
water future is a lot like building a personal budget. With a
changing climate, growing population and booming economy, we
need to include desalination in the water supply equation to
help make up an imported water deficit.
South Coast Water District will gear up to undertake its next
milestone for desalination: financing the project. On Thursday,
Jan. 9, after press time, General Manager Rick Shintaku
requested authorization from SCWD’s Board of Directors to enter
into an agreement with Clean Energy Capital to conduct a cost
analysis for the proposed desalination project.
Nobody likes to look out to the Pacific Ocean and see oil
derricks on the horizon. That’s why California wisely banned
new offshore oil drilling 50 years ago. But in Monterey County,
coastal views are limited by a relic of a bygone era: a giant,
industrial sand plant right on the dunes between Highway One
and the ocean.
A mechanical engineer at Carnegie Mellon University has
developed a new, micro-thin material to make membrane water
desalination even better. Amir Barati Farimani, with fellow
researchers Zhonglin Cao and Vincent Liu, has calculated how
much better his metal organic framework (MOF) works than the
traditional membrane method.
With Poseidon Water’s plans for a Huntington Beach desalination
plant approaching the homestretch, critics were as adamant as
ever at a Friday workshop, where dozens complained the proposal
is environmentally flawed, unneeded and would jack up water
There’s a war over the future of water on the Monterey
Peninsula and it’s taking place in the board chambers of half a
dozen state and local government entities. It’s also taking
place on social media and in the press.
Orange County has long been recognized as a worldwide leader
for developing state-of-the-art, environmentally sensitive new
water supply technology, and we are not resting on our laurels.
… This month, it was announced that the Huntington Beach
Seawater Desalination Plant will receive $585 million in credit
assistance under the EPA’s WIFIA program.
A bi-national conference at San Diego State University was
aimed at analyzing water resources in the Baja California and
San Diego border region where challenges include cross-border
pollution and water scarcity… Experts at the Reborder 2019
conference discussed ways to improve regional access to “a
secure and reliable water supply” through wastewater treatment
West Basin Municipal Water District took the next steps Monday
toward building a desalination facility in El Segundo, a
project that has drawn fierce opposition from conservation
groups — including some who staged a rally before the meeting.
Seeking to fortify the city against future droughts, the Palo
Alto City Council endorsed on Monday a long-term agreement with
Santa Clara Valley Water District and Mountain View to build a
salt-removal plant in the Baylands and then transfer the
treated wastewater south.
A proposed desalination plant in El Segundo could soon be one
step closer to reality. The West Basin Municipal Water District
will hold a special meeting in Carson on Monday, Nov. 18, where
the board will weigh whether to certify an Environmental Impact
Report for the proposal. … The board has not yet selected a
company to build the proposed plant, which could cost more than
Cal Am Water’s experts may have seriously underestimated the
potential impact the company’s proposed desalination plant
would have on the existing water supply nearby, the staff of
the California Coastal Commission concluded in a report
released this week as a supplement to its exhaustive report on
the overall project.
If California goes into another drought and Kern County needs
an extra supply of water, Santa Barbara is open to partnering
with communities like Kern County. “We’re able to do exchanges
with people, so you could in theory have someone in the Central
Valley be a partner in desal,” said Joshua Haggmark, water
resource manager for Santa Barbara.
Now is the time to focus on Pure Water Monterey and scrap the
desal plans. If 10 years from now the recycled water project
doesn’t do the trick, and there’s still a need for a desal
plant, we can be optimistic that future advances in technology
will make any desal option more environmentally-friendly and
In places like San Diego and Dubai, where freshwater is scarce,
humans turn to machines that pull the salt out of seawater,
transforming it into clean drinking water. … Many researchers
are working to improve the technology so it can reach more
people — and address climate change without contributing to it.
Late last month, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a $100
million research grant to the National Alliance for Water
Innovation (NAWI) to lead an Energy-Water Desalination Hub.
Meagan Mauter explains how this very large and potentially
transformative project will work, and Stanford’s role in the
After years of negotiations, the Montecito Water District is
closing in on a deal to buy 1,430 acre-feet of water from the
City of Santa Barbara, every year for the next 50 years. …
The city would produce the extra supply at its $72 million
desalination plant, at a yearly cost to Montecito of $4.3
Activists and local government officials across Monterey County
have banded together to fight a proposed desalination plant
that could double the cost of water for some residents and
endanger an aquifer that serves low-income communities.
Desalinated seawater is the lifeblood of Saudi Arabia, no more
so than at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology,
an international research center that rose from the dry, empty
desert a decade ago. … Desalination provides all of the
university’s fresh water, nearly five million gallons a day.
But that amount is just a tiny fraction of Saudi Arabia’s total
Touting a shift in local politics and a preferable alternative,
more than two dozen area elected officials signed on to a
letter to the Coastal Commission calling for denial of the
California American Water desalination project.
The final environmental study for a proposed desalination plant
in El Segundo will soon be released, the City Council for
adjacent Manhattan Beach learned this week, when it received
its first formal presentation on the potential project — even
though the West Basin Municipal Water District first pitched
the plant in 2015.
A Monterey County Superior Court judge has called a halt to
work on the California American Water desalination plant
project, at least temporarily, while a California Coastal
Commission appeal challenging the project’s source wells is
While cities on the Monterey Peninsula have been working to
address housing needs and the business community is actively
looking to create more jobs, there is one component they all
need to complete their plans – reliable, drought-proof access
The project is the first of its kind to tap agricultural
run-off among a variety of wastewater sources for conversion
into potable, drinking water that would represent about a third
of the Monterey Peninsula’s new drinking water supply.
Over 30 years, Cal Am’s Desal would cost $1.2 billion while the
Pure Water Monterey expansion would be only $190 million. But
the cost in dollars is not the only comparison that should be
made. The environmental cost comparison is also dramatic.
In an effort to widen the use of a nearly limitless — but
expensive — source of water for California and other places
worldwide that are prone to shortages, Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory has been selected to lead a $100 million
project aimed at bringing down the cost of desalination.
The Monterey Peninsula has gotten so good at conserving water
that there is no need to build a costly desalination plant for
decades – even if the region experiences unprecedented growth –
according to a report from the top executive at the Monterey
Peninsula Water Management District.
The San Diego County Water Authority’s 2019 fiscal year report
on the Carlsbad ocean desalination plant shows poor performance
at the facility. According to the report, Poseidon paid a
penalty of almost $2 million for non-delivery of water,
reaffirming concerns around affordability and reliability
raised by community advocates …
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.
Reaction has been predictably mixed to a new report that
concludes the Monterey Peninsula may be able to get by with
recycled water instead of desalinated water for the next two
decades and perhaps beyond.
The groundbreaking ceremony was decades in the making for the
North Pleasant Valley Groundwater Desalter Plant, which aims to
convert brackish water from the Calleguas Creek watershed into
potable water for the city of Camarillo.
Completion and operation of the much-anticipated Pure Water
Monterey recycled water project have been delayed again and it
is now expected to miss another key water delivery deadline set
for the end of this year.
With every passing week, California American Water clears more
hurdles as it sets out to build a desalination plant near
Marina. The most recent victory for the proponents of the $329
million project came on Aug. 28 at the California Supreme
Fifth graders now have a space to learn everything about water,
from conservation to careers in the water industry. The Hydro
Station is an initiative of the Chula Vista Elementary School
District (CVESD), the Otay Water District and Sweetwater
Authority. This facility consists of a classroom right next to
the Richard A. Reynolds desalination plant, which is estimated
to receive about 4,500 students every school year.
Arguing that Monterey County officials improperly ignored new
groundwater impact information and a viable, even preferable
recycled water alternative, Marina Coast Water District has
sued the county and California American Water over the county’s
narrow approval of Cal Am’s desalination plant permit.
Desalination began to lose its urgency among Californians and
their public officials two years ago, after the drought-busting
winter of 2016-17, when heavy rain and snow ended dry
conditions in most of the state. The idea of drawing potable
water from the sea became even less of a priority this year,
when an autumn of record-level fires gave way to one of the
state’s wettest winters on record.
Whenever the price of other water goes up, desalinating Pacific
waters becomes more enticing. It will become more so if the
price of filtering minerals out of salt water drops. But if the
price and availability of fresh water remains reasonable, as it
surely will be this year, desal stays in the back seat.
Jeff Urban, a staff scientist who specializes in new materials
for energy storage and conversion at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular
Foundry, a Department of Energy nanoscience research facility,
explains what forward osmosis is and how Berkeley Lab is
addressing the challenges.
Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) investigating how to make
desalination less expensive have hit on promising design rules
for making so-called “thermally responsive” ionic liquids to
separate water from salt.
Seven and a half years after it was formed, the Monterey
Peninsula Regional Water Authority is moving forward with a
smaller, less expensive version of itself. … The authority
has completed the vast majority of its mandate in backing a new
water supply for the Peninsula and can now be expected to shift
its focus toward dealing with the state water board’s Carmel
River pumping cutback order.
The project’s ocean-friendly technology has won praise from the
same environmentalists fighting a desalter plant proposed by
Poseidon Water for Huntington Beach, one of several things that
distinguish the south county plant from the more controversial
project to the north. … But the price tag is steep for a
district that serves a relatively modest population of 35,000,
just over 1% of the county.
A long-awaited Montecito Water District rate study, planned for
release this May, will not be finished until later this year,
officials said this week. The study can’t proceed until the
district finishes negotiating the terms of an agreement for
buying into Santa Barbara’s desalination plant.
The Bureau of Reclamation announced that 30 projects will
receive $5.1 million from the Desalination and Water
Purification Research Program to develop improved and
inexpensive ways to desalinate and treat impaired water.
Monterey County supervisors voted Monday to let California
American Water start construction on its desalination plant
even before the state Coastal Commission makes a decision on
the technology involved.
Only 15 out of the thousands of desalination plants operating
today worldwide are powered by nuclear. A small one is at the
Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant in California, slated to be closed
soon. The plant could power several huge desalination plants
for decades that could desalinate its own cooling water,
removing the most commonly stated problem with the plant.
The Monterey County Board of Supervisors will decide July 15 if
California American Water will be permitted to build its $329
million desal plant. The supervisors will be hearing appeals
brought by Public Water Now and the Marina Coast Water District
challenging the county Planning Commission’s decision to allow
Cal Am to proceed with this seriously flawed venture. There are
some major problems with the proposed plant.
A bill sponsored by U.S. Sens. Martha McSally and Kyrsten
Sinema would put aside hundreds of millions of dollars for
water storage projects, water recycling, and desalination
plants. … The bill is also sponsored by California Democratic
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and Colorado Republican Senator Cory
What is at stake is the water supply for the Monterey
Peninsula. Consuming water drawn from the Carmel River is no
longer feasible, neither ecologically nor legally. But the
power to decide on an alternative supply is largely vested in
the hands of public officials from outside the region.
Pure Water Monterey, the highly touted recycled water project,
is in default on a water purchase agreement with California
American Water after failing to meet a Monday deadline for
delivering potable water even as the project’s costs rise amid
From sea to shining sea may take on a new meaning in
California, as state officials are reviewing billion dollar
plans to import water from Mexico’s Sea of Cortez to help raise
water levels at the Salton Sea.
The facility would serve two main purposes. In addition to
weaning Camarillo customers off imported water from Calleguas
Municipal Water District, it would also help filter out the
everincreasing amount of salt found in the plumes of water
beneath much of the eastern half of the city.
Cal Am, two members of the Coastal Commission and two local
appellants are challenging the Marina city Planning
Commission’s March 7 denial of a coastal development permit for
the $329 million desal project, including seven slant source
water wells and associated infrastructure
An affiliate of Aberdeen Standard Investments has agreed to buy
the Carlsbad desalination plant in Southern California for more
than $1 billion, according to people with knowledge of the
matter. A transaction could be announced as soon as this week,
said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because
the matter is private.
The desalination plant would have seven wells sloping into the
ground and sucking up water underneath the dunes, removing the
salt, and sending it to cities on the Monterey Peninsula …
but not Marina. They wouldn’t get any of the desalinated water
because they’re not served by CalAm. Biala and other Marina
residents oppose the plant because they think it will cause
irreversible damage to their town’s ecosystems.
The slower timeline for Huntington Beach resulted in it facing
new, stricter regulations and additional delays. The
controversial plant still needs two major permits, opponents
remain steadfast and a recent water-supply study raised
questions about the cost and need for the project.
The organization best known for backing a public takeover of
Cal Am’s local [Monterey Peninsula] water system filed an
appeal of the Planning Commission’s narrow approval of a permit
for the 6.4-million-gallon-per-day desal plant north of Marina
and associated infrastructure. The appeal argues the desal
project proposal fails to properly address several key details,
including groundwater rights, and calls for the county to
require a supplemental environmental review before considering
The combination of droughts and floods has given rise to a
process known as saltwater intrusion — what San Jose Mayor Sam
Liccardo refers to as his city’s greatest climate threat. …
In coastal regions like San Jose, overpumping allows seawater
to seep into the city’s aquifers, exposing local residents to
excess sodium in their drinking water. The problem is
compounded by sea level rise, which pushes seawater inland
toward the city’s filtration system.
Poseidon Water, owner of the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad
Desalination Plant, has received an updated permit from the San
Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board (SDRWQCB) governing
the desalination plant’s discharges into the Pacific Ocean.
Additionally, the permit includes structural and operational
changes to provide greater protection for marine life and water
A brackish water study conducted by consulting firm Aqualogic
has predicted three potential areas that can be tapped for
brackish water extraction in the Indian Wells Valley. … The
brackish water project has the potential to help expand local
supplies if the water is properly treated and brine removed.
We have learned over the last six years that the water need for
Santa Cruz to meet its own annual demand is 1.1 billion gallons
less than thought in 2014, when the two districts were pursuing
the desalination plant.
Coastal Commission staff on Monday reiterated to The Herald
that Cal Am can appeal the city’s denial under the state’s
Coastal Act because the city charges an appeal fee. They called
the city’s own rules “internally inconsistent” and noted the
Coastal Act’s regulations supercede local ones.
People are interested in California water problems, and they
ask reasonable questions. Here is a first installment of short
science-based answers to some reasonable questions often heard
at public and private discussions of water in California.
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.
Poseidon Water might be fighting for its desalination future in
Huntington Beach, but the corporation’s representatives will be
in front of the California Coastal Commission for an entirely
different matter on May 9: the restoration and conversion of a
90.9-acre salt pond to tidal wetlands and 34.6-acrer Otay River
floodplain site in San Diego.
It was the best attended city council meeting that didn’t
happen. … But when everyone filed into City Hall, no
councilmembers were in sight. Only Assistant City Attorney
Deborah Mall appeared. She said Cal Am had withdrawn its appeal
at the last minute on April 29 and the council could not
proceed with a hearing.
In one key respect, California is lagging behind many other
parts of the world. Climate change is causing drought and water
shortages everywhere, but California has been slow to adopt a
solution that over 120 countries are using: desalination.
Cal Am announced it had been told by city officials its request
for the mayor and two council members to recuse themselves due
to alleged bias against the desal project would not be honored.
The company will now appeal the commission’s denial directly to
the Coastal Commission.
Citing long-running efforts to secure a new Monterey Peninsula
water supply and the state-imposed deadline for reducing
unauthorized water usage, the county Planning Commission
approved California American Water’s desalination plant north
of Marina on Wednesday.
Considered by many the key to long-running efforts to cut
unauthorized pumping from the Carmel River, California American
Water’s proposed desalination plant project is headed to the
Monterey County Planning Commission next week. On Wednesday,
the commission is set to conduct a public hearing on a combined
development permit for the proposed 6.4-million-gallon-per-day
Since Jim Madaffer became chairman of the board of the San
Diego County Water Authority, two long-time staffers have left
and talk has begun heating up about a multibillion-dollar
tunnel project to give San Diego a second connection to water
from the Colorado River. The tunnel plan would be the single
largest, most expensive and complex project the Water Authority
has ever attempted.
Cal Am is seeking California Public Utilities Commission
approval to start raising local customers’ rates by May 11 to
pay for the 7-mile pipeline from Seaside to Pacific Grove,
which is in operation and is designed to allow pumping of new
desalinated and recycled water sources from the Seaside basin
to local customers.
When you turn on a faucet on the Monterey Peninsula, you’re
consuming water that’s been illegally pumped from Carmel River.
Now, after more than two decades of this, scores of public
officials, utility executives and citizen advocates are working
– and sometimes fighting – to replace the region’s water supply
before state-mandated sanctions kick in. California American
Water is forging ahead with its plan: a desalination plant near
Construction starts this month on a $1.5 million test well to
show whether desalinated groundwater could supplement the
drinking water supply for 86,000 customers of the Olivenhain
Municipal Water District. The district serves parts of
Encinitas, Carlsbad, San Diego, San Marcos, Solana Beach and
neighboring communities, and relies almost entirely on water
imported from the Colorado River and Northern California.
San Diego water customers will soon pay $6 to $13 more a month
to fund the first part of the city’s new recycled water
project, according to a newly released estimate. The city is
working on a multibillion-dollar plan to purify enough sewage
to provide a third of the city’s drinking water by 2035.
As a result of California’s outdated water infrastructure and
persistent droughts, some elected leaders are shifting the
focus to investing in seawater desalination to help address the
state’s water crisis. While less than half a dozen desalination
plants currently exist in the state, the idea is gaining
momentum and greater support at the state level.
Antioch’s plan to build a long-awaited brackish desalination
plant got a major boost this week when the City Council
officially accepted a $10 million state grant that will pay
toward design and construction. The city’s grant was one of
three statewide to be awarded in March 2018 from the Department
of Water Resources for desalination projects under Proposition
The city is suiting up for construction of a new facility later
this year that will purify recycled water to create a new,
local source of drinking water for residents by 2022. Pure
Water Oceanside is a water purification system that aims to
reduce the city’s reliance on imported water, improve
groundwater resources, increase local water supply and
strengthen the city’s resiliency to drought and climate change
in an environmentally sound process.
The City of Oceanside is taking control of its water destiny,
investing in a facility to purify recycled water from homes.
“It’s not being used, it’s really a waste. A lot of that water
is going out to the ocean and it’s really a precious resource,”
said Cari Dale, Water Utilities Director for the city. This
Fall they’ll break ground on the Pure Water Oceanside facility,
which will sit right next to the San Luis Rey Water Reclamation
The Regional Water Quality Control Board … detailed a
specific timeline for the board’s permit process — with a final
vote penciled in for Oct. 25. Poseidon Vice President Scott
Maloni interpreted that as a signal that board geologists,
engineers and administrators are confident they can work
through outstanding issues.
The only Monterey Peninsula city with its own desalination
plant is looking to install new intake wells to help balance
the salinity levels and increase output to the
300-acre-foot-per-year design capacity of the almost
10-year-old Sand City desalination facility. The plant, which
is owned by Sand City and is operated by California American
Water, is currently running at 200 acre-feet per year.
The city of Oceanside is receiving more than $2.6 million in
federal funding to increase its local water supply and to
reduce brine discharge into the ocean. The city will receive
$2.623 million in funding from the Bureau of Reclamation’s
WaterSMART’s Desalination Construction Projects under the Water
Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN), subject
to federal appropriations.
A week after the Marina Planning Commission unanimously
rejected a key desalination project permit, California American
Water has filed an appeal of the decision to the Marina City
Council. On Wednesday, Cal Am filed the appeal to the council,
arguing the planning commission erred in its denial of a
coastal development permit for parts of the proposed desal
A recently completed study on the cost effectiveness and
financial risk of proposals to meet water supply demands
through 2050 concludes that the controversial Poseidon
desalination project in Huntington Beach would produce more
water than the Orange County basin needs and cost ratepayers
far more than alternatives such as recycling and capturing
One tunnel or two, neither idea adds a drop of the water to
needs of the nearly 40 million people who call California home.
The tunnels simply divert existing water supplies while putting
in severe jeopardy the largest freshwater estuary west of the
Mississippi River, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta that
juts into the western edge of Stockton. Clearly, there must be
better solutions. Three approaches leap to mind: storage,
conservation and desalination.
To make a real structural shift, utilities must engage a
broader group of actors in the process, and that is where cap
and trade comes into play, this time for water systems. … A
smattering of cap-and-trade schemes already aim to address
water pollution in various water bodies. Yet most such trading
programmes have focused on water quality. Now their frameworks
must be expanded to account for water quantity, encouraging
efficiency, reinvestment, and supply diversification.
Oceanside announced it will receive a $2.6 million federal
grant to build two more of the wells that the city has used for
more than 20 years to supply a portion of its drinking water.
The wells pump brackish water from what’s called the Mission
Basin, an area near the airport, the old swap meet property and
the San Luis Rey River. The city filters the water using the
same reverse osmosis process used on a much larger scale in
Carlsbad to desalinate seawater.
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.)
The new administration has signaled a shift in water policy by
specifically talking about turning salty water potable after
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said he would support only a single
tunnel as part of the project known as WaterFix. … But
talking up desalination is much easier than making it a
reality. In the four years since California updated its
desalination regulations, none of the eight applications for
new or expanded facilities has been approved. Meanwhile, the
costs for the projects keep rising and the state has few
details about its plans.
As Californians, I believe we must look west to the Pacific
Ocean, where seawater desalination offers a proven, climate
change-resilient solution. No longer do we need verification
from Israel, the Middle East and Australia, where desalination
facilities have literally helped save lives and fend off
debilitating droughts due of climate change. Now, we can look
much closer to home — in San Diego.
In a recent paper, Stephanie Pincetl, director of the
California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA, and
co-authors argue that investments made over the years to
fortify the city’s supply with additional imported water have
not solved LA’s water shortages. … The paper asserts that LA
could become water self-reliant by strategically investing in
local supplies, and offers several concrete strategies for
improving LA’s water security.
A leader in a grassroots group pushing for interagency
transfers to solve regional water supply shortfalls has filed
an environmental lawsuit against Soquel Creek Water District.
The civil lawsuit … takes aim at the water district’s Pure
Water Soquel project, which its board of
directors approved in December. The suit points to alleged
shortcomings in Pure Water Soquel’s state-mandated
environmental impact report.
San Diego is in the midst of spending roughly $3 billion on a
massive new water treatment system, but city officials can’t or
won’t tell customers how that will affect their water bills.
New water recycling plants will eventually purify enough sewage
to provide a third of the city’s drinking water. In
December, Voice of San Diego asked the city to estimate how
much customers’ bills will increase because of the Pure Water
project. The city, after weeks of delay, finally declined
last week to offer any estimate because “there is no simple
calculation” they could perform.
A partnership between Monterey One Water and the Monterey
Peninsula Water Management District, the project is designed to
produce up to 3,500 acre-feet of highly treated water per year
to the Peninsula for injection into the Seaside basin and later
extraction and use by California American Water for its
Peninsula customers. … The recycled water project is a
key part of the proposed replacement water supply
portfolio for the Peninsula to offset the state water board’s
Carmel River pumping cutback order.
Technology already exists to treat reused water to levels
meeting or exceeding health standards. But adequate technical
capacity is not sufficient. Water reuse can trigger revulsion,
especially when water is reused for drinking or other potable
purposes. This note explores outreach and engagement strategies
to overcome the “yuck factor” and achieve public support for
California American Water’s Monterey Peninsula desalination
project is in the midst of another critical phase even as
a Carmel River pumping cutback order milestone requiring the
start of construction looms later this year. … The city of
Marina is on schedule to consider the project’s coastal
development permit application covering mostly proposed desal
plant feeder slant wells on the CEMEX sand mining plant by
mid-March, according to a senior city planning official.
Far less settled is how Newsom will fill his administration’s
most important positions regarding state water policy. One of
Newsom’s key tests confronts him immediate: State Water
Resources Control Board Chair Felicia Marcus’ term expires this
The primary byproduct of desal is brine, which facilities pump
back out to sea. The stuff sinks to the seafloor and wreaks
havoc on ecosystems, cratering oxygen levels and spiking salt
content. … Researchers report today that global desal
brine production is 50 percent higher than previous estimates,
totaling 141.5 million cubic meters a day, compared to 95
million cubic meters of actual freshwater output from the
A lawsuit seeking a new environmental report for the
controversial Poseidon desalination plant proposed for
Huntington Beach was rejected by a Sacramento Superior Court
judge on Tuesday. Judge Richard Sueyoshi found the
supplemental report met legal requirements while noting the
2010 study had never been legally challenged.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has named Jared Blumenfeld, a
former Obama administration official and longtime environmental
advocate as the new secretary of the California Environmental
Protection Agency. Blumenfeld, 49, of San Francisco, will run
the agency, known as Cal-EPA, which oversees a broad range of
environmental and public health regulations statewide, on
topics that include air pollution, water pollution, toxics
regulation, pesticides and recycling.
Montgomery is known for fostering collaborative relationships
among stakeholders and as a leader in protecting and restoring
water quality within California and throughout the Southwest
and the Pacific Islands. He is currently serving as the
Assistant Director of the Water Division in the US
Environmental Protection Agency (Region 9).
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.
In the wake of filing lawsuits in state Supreme Court
challenging approval of the California American Water
desalination project approval, the Marina Coast Water District
and the city of Marina have both filed petitions with the state
Public Utilities Commission for rehearing of the desal project
In a widely anticipated move, the city of Marina and the
Marina Coast Water District filed lawsuits last week in
state Supreme Court challenging the California Public
Utilities Commission’s approval of California American Water’s
The controversial Poseidon desalination plant proposed for
Huntington Beach is the least cost-effective option and carries
the most fiscal risk of key water projects being pursued in
Orange County, according to a newly released draft report.
The San Diego County Water Authority Friday announced it will
cease work on a seawater desalination plant at Camp Pendleton
because of excessive permitting and cost hurdles by the State
After six and a half years of review, the state Public
Utilities Commission on Thursday approved a permit for
California American Water’s Monterey Peninsula Water Supply
Project, including a North Marina desalination plant.
In a sign of how seriously the state Public Utilities
Commission is taking the debate over the future of water supply
on the Monterey Peninsula, all five commissioners attended a
CPUC oral argument hearing on California American Water’s
proposed desalination project in San Francisco on Wednesday.
Several of those who attended the hearing said three of the
five commissioners asked a number of questions of the parties
to the desal project proceeding, and all five appeared “engaged
and interested” in the issue.
In a major development for California American Water’s
long-sought desalination project, the California Public
Utilities Commission has issued a proposed decision
recommending approval of the proposal known as the Monterey
Peninsula Water Supply Project.
After a protracted legal battle, a California Public Utilities
Commission ruling has been issued requiring California American
Water to release by this week unredacted [Monterey] county
Water Resources Agency invoices for work on the long-defunct
regional desalination project at the heart of a $1.9 million
settlement agreement between the two.
A California Public Utilities Commission proposed decision on
California American Water’s desalination project will be issued
by Monday next week (Aug. 13), and will appear on the
commission’s Sept. 13 meeting agenda, according to a commission
Concerns over the cost and environmental impacts of desalinated
water were overridden by the desire to fortify water supplies
when the Orange County Water District board voted 6-2 Wednesday
to approve non-binding contract terms with Poseidon, which has
spent 20 years on the desalination plant proposal for
The day of reckoning is drawing near for Huntington Beach’s
long-planned desalination plant, which would help quench Orange
County’s thirst with sea water and free up imported water for
the rest of the Southern California. Twenty years and $50
million into the process, officials with plant purveyor
Poseidon are optimistic they will get their final two permits —
possibly by year’s end.
Sin City has never been a place that thinks small. So it should
come as no surprise that Las Vegas – about 300 miles from the
Pacific Ocean – is pondering seawater desalination to meet its
long-term water demand. That doesn’t mean Vegas plans to build
a pipeline to the ocean. More likely, it would help pay for a
desalination facility in a place like Mexico, then trade that
investment for a piece of Mexico’s water rights in the Colorado
Not if, but when. That’s the future of water desalination
plants in Arizona, according to the head of the state’s water
department. They are controversial and expensive, but Arizona’s
current leadership views desalinated water – or “desal” – as
key to the state’s long-term water plans. Arizona sits atop an
estimated 600 million acre-feet of brackish water.
Several parties including the Monterey Peninsula mayors
regional water authority have called for delaying California
American Water’s proposed Marina desalination plant for a year
or more to allow pursuit of a proposed Pure Water Monterey
recycled water expansion and continued settlement talks in an
attempt to avoid litigation.
California water officials have approved $34.4 million in
grants to eight desalination projects across the state,
including one in the East Bay city of Antioch, as part of an
effort to boost the water supply in the wake of the state’s
historic, five-year drought.
With Tijuana and other rapidly growing coastal cities heavily
dependent on the Colorado River, Baja California urgently needs
to find new water sources. Baja California Gov. Francisco Vega
de Lamadrid’s administration has offered a solution: Build the
largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere, enough to
ensure a supply for decades to come.
A coalition of non-profits is asking a superior court to
reverse a state agency’s decision to greenlight a
long-proposed, controversial desalination plant in Huntington
Beach. … The Poseidon desalination plant has been proposed
for the site of the AES power plant on Pacific Coast Highway in
Huntington Beach for nearly 20 years, and has been continually
challenged and fought by environmental groups.
The small Stinson Beach County Water District is looking at
desalination as a way to guard water supplies as hoards descend
on the beach community in summer, and as drought and climate
change loom. The district serves about 730 residences and 2,000
people in and around Stinson Beach, drawing water from four
creeks as well as groundwater supplies.
The final round of battles between the people who want to build
the Poseidon desalination water plant, and the grass roots
environmental groups who oppose it, began Thursday in a crowded
city hall chamber in Huntington Beach. … The
three-member [State Lands] commission voted late Thursday to
approve the project as long as the operators agree to eliminate
or reduce carbon emissions.
A proposed Huntington Beach seawater desalination plant passed
a major regulatory hurdle Thursday when a marathon session at
City Hall concluded with an endorsement from the California
State Lands Commission.
A regulatory showdown that could set a precedent for large
scale desalination plants throughout the state is expected to
take place Thursday in Huntington Beach where a three-member
commission will decide whether the hotly contested Poseidon
ocean purification plant can move forward.
Poseidon Water announced this week that its proposed ocean
desalination plant in Huntington Beach would employ an
environmental protection and energy efficiency plan. But that
didn’t halt criticism of the controversial facility.
A desalination plant planned for Huntington Beach and more than
a decade in the making got a small step closer toward opening,
this week, after its application with the regional water
district was determined to be ready for consideration. The
agency also has enough information to make a decision about
whether the project complies with the state’s ocean plan.
With Baja California pushing forward on its plan for a massive
desalination plant in Rosarito Beach, a ground-breaking
proposal to pipe some of that water to the United States has
overcome a key hurdle. The U.S. State Department’s approval of
a presidential permit marks a step forward for the Otay Water
District and its vision for a cross-border pipeline to import
the desalinated water from Mexico.
State Public Utilities Commission officials are seeking input
on whether to conduct new hearings on California American
Water’s proposed Monterey Peninsula desalination project to
address a number of issues, potentially including an updated
project demand forecast and desal plant sizing evaluation that
could lead to a smaller initial plant that could be more easily
expanded as demand grows in the future.
As California officials struggle to decide on long-term fixes
for the receding lake, there’s new momentum around an old idea:
importing seawater from Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, and using the
area’s plentiful geothermal power to desalinate that water. A
subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy, which
already operates 10 geothermal plants in the area, is
developing a seawater desalination proposal and has pitched it
to lawmakers in Sacramento.
The long debate over Poseidon Water’s proposed ocean
desalination plant in Huntington Beach continued this week as
the California State Lands Commission released a draft of a
supplemental environmental impact report analyzing planned
additions to the facility that are meant to reduce potential
harm to marine life and increase the plant’s efficiency.
A new nationwide study has unearthed the huge hidden potential
of tapping into salty aquifers as a way to relieve
the growing pressure on freshwater supplies across the United
States. Digging into data from the country’s 60 major aquifers,
the U.S. Geological Survey reports that the amount of brackish
— or slightly salty — groundwater is more than 35 times the
amount of fresh groundwater used in the United States each
A California American Water official argued the company’s
desalination project can secure key permits and approvals
within six months of certification of the final project
environmental review document and start construction shortly
afterward, despite a series of delays involving the draft
report and the prospect of seeking a critical permit from the
city of Marina.
A Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary representative said
the latest delay involving California American Water’s proposed
Monterey Peninsula desalination project — a 30-day extension of
the public comment period on the project’s draft combined state
and federal environmental review document — could push back
finalization of the report by a month.
California’s historic drought may be winding down. But water
officials across the Golden State are increasingly exploring a
hidden but promising way to add to the state’s water supply:
removing salt from the billions of gallons of brackish — or
distastefully salty — water that lies deep below the Earth’s
A document purportedly leaked from the Trump administration
indicates that the proposed desalination plant in Huntington
Beach is among 50 infrastructure projects nationwide that the
president has designated as a priority.
The U.S. imports vehicles, equipment, fresh produce and other
goods from Mexico. That list may soon include water too, now
that a San Diego County water district is looking south for
help to diversify its supply.
On a a picturesque summer afternoon, West Basin Municipal Water
District officials chose to woo regulators with a stroll by the
beach in El Segundo, stopping to admire an unadulterated strip
of California coastline. … A few hours later,
environmental advocates held a town hall two miles away in
Poseidon Water hopes to help quench Orange County’s thirst, but
first the company’s proposed desalination
project must slake a thirst of its own. That’s why
Poseidon has long eyed a coastal power plant that has, for more
than a half-century, sucked up seawater to cool its massive
A protracted conflict over whether and how to protect fish from
dying at desalination plants is clouding prospects for what
would be California’s second large plant of this type – and for
the future of desalination along the entire
California coastline. For years, a proposed Poseidon
Resources desalination plant in Huntington Beach in Orange
County has been kept in limbo.
A new ruling issued by a state Public Utilities Commission
member has indicated the full commission likely wouldn’t
consider approval of California American Water’s Monterey
Peninsula desalination project until March 2018, four months
after company officials had hoped, and suggested that
consideration could be delayed even further.