Monterey County must rescind all approvals of California
American Water’s proposed desalination project, per an order
from a Monterey County Superior Court judge who earlier this
year found the county violated the California Environmental
Quality Act by approving the project without identifying a
water source. The ruling was handed down April 3 by Judge Lydia
Villarreal, who on Jan. 21 granted in part—and denied in part—a
writ requested by the Marina Coast Water District regarding the
2019 approvals of the desal plant component of Cal Am’s
Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project.
The Superior Court of California, County of Monterey has told
Monterey County it must rescind all approvals for the Cal-Am
desalination project. According to the court, the county
violated the California Environmental Quality Act by approving
the desal project with identifying a water source. The court
ruling also means that the county can’t retroactively correct
Poseidon Water announced that the Third District California
Court of Appeal issued a decision denying the petition by
seawater desalination opponents to overturn the Sacramento
County Superior Court’s 2019 ruling upholding the California
State Lands Commission’s 2017 approval of an amended lease for
the proposed Huntington Beach Desalination Project (“Project”).
The Court of Appeal decision reaffirms that the State Lands
Commission correctly analyzed the Project under the California
Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and that the Project protects
the state’s Public Trust resources.
Salinity has often become a major limit for irrigated
agriculture in semi-arid regions, from ancient Mesopotamia to
parts of California today. A previous blog post showed that
conjunctive use with more saline groundwater can differ
fundamentally from freshwater aquifers. Higher salinity limits
groundwater use for irrigation during dry years, when less
surface water is available to dilute groundwater salinity, and
increases aquifer pumping in wetter years to avoid
water-logging. Brackish groundwater can no longer serves as
drought storage, but becomes a supplemental water supply in all
years, limited by availability of fresh surface water for
diluting salts. This greatly reduces groundwater’s ability to
support permanent crops and increases variability in annual
crop acreage across different water years, thus reducing
Chuang Cheng-deng’s modest rice farm is a stone’s throw from
the nerve center of Taiwan’s computer chip industry, whose
products power a huge share of the world’s iPhones and other
gadgets. This year, Mr. Chuang is paying the price for his
high-tech neighbors’ economic importance. Gripped by drought
and scrambling to save water for homes and factories, Taiwan
has shut off irrigation across tens of thousands of acres of
farmland. … Officials are calling the drought Taiwan’s worst
in more than half a century. And it is exposing the enormous
challenges involved in hosting the island’s semiconductor
industry, which is an increasingly indispensable node in the
global supply chains for smartphones, cars and other keystones
of modern life. Chip makers use lots of water to clean
their factories and wafers, the thin slices of silicon that
form the basis of the chips.
Governor Gavin Newsom frequently says California is a leader in
sustainability and the transition away from fossil fuels. The
governor has also issued an executive order to fight climate
change in response to the deadly wildfires that ravaged our
state last year. Despite these public statements and official
efforts, it’s puzzling that his administration has been
promoting the climate-wrecking Poseidon desalination plant in
Huntington Beach as an infrastructure to source additional
water for California. There are plenty of things we can do to
ensure that Southern Californians have enough water to
-Written by Alejandro Sobrera, the Orange County Hub
Coordinator for the Sunrise Movement, a youth led effort to
bring about a just transition to a greener
Inframark LLC, has entered into a five-year partnership with
the City of Camarillo, Calif., for the operations and
maintenance (O&M) of the City’s new $66.3 million North
Pleasant Valley Desalter. On January 13, the City Council
unanimously approved Inframark’s proposal over three other
international competitors. Inframark will also assist in the
startup and commissioning of the brackish water reverse osmosis
facility, which is currently under construction and is expected
to be up and running this fall.
Climate change and other environmental pressures are already
putting the pinch on water resources in California, the
Southwest and other arid parts of the world. Over-tapped
groundwater, rivers and lakes are forcing water managers to
find new supplies. Some of these can be costly, like treating
wastewater for drinking water. Or they can come with a hefty
price tag and outsized environmental footprint, like
desalination or new dams. There’s another option on the
table, though: stormwater. If we do the accounting right,
runoff from precipitation is a cost-effective supplementary
water resource, experts say.
Hearings have been scheduled to resume in April for Poseidon
Water’s controversial proposed Huntington Beach desalination
plant. Last April the California Regional Water Quality Control
Board, Santa Ana Region was expected to vote on renewing a
permit for the proposed $1 billion project but the workshop was
canceled due to COVID-19. A hearing scheduled for
September was also delayed so Poseidon could have
more time to address water board concerns.
Opponents of a proposed desalination facility along the
Huntington Beach coastline are aghast that Gov. Gavin Newsom
has taken steps to help end a years-long regulatory logjam.
Although an environmentalist, the governor clearly recognizes
the importance of developing new water sources to meet
California’s needs. Privately funded facilities plants that
turn saltwater into drinking water aren’t the only solution to
California’s water shortages, but they are one solution. For
instance, a similar plant in Carlsbad has the capacity to meet
9 percent of San Diego County’s water needs. That’s an enormous
contribution, especially with another drought looming.
[D]esalination may have a role to play in addressing
California’s long-running water shortage issues. After all,
we’ve got a 1,100-mile coastline in a drought-stricken state,
and it’s only natural to think: Hey, let’s just stick a straw
in the ocean, and our rabid thirst will be quenched once and
for all. But desalination comes with many costs, including
big hits to the environment and ratepayer pocketbooks. And as
Susan Jordan, executive director of the California Coastal
Protection Network, puts it, we need to temper our lust for
what seems an easy fix.
Often the value of a plan or project can best be judged by its
opposition. In the case of the proposed Poseidon desalination
plant in Huntington Beach, the forces lined up against it are
clear indicators that it’s a worthwhile enterprise. The
Sierra Club calls the plant “rather pathetic,” “the most
expensive and environmentally damaging way to secure Orange
County’s future water supply.” -Written by Kerry Jackson, a fellow in the Center
for California Reform at the Pacific Research
An ad running in Sacramento media funded by an environmental
group starts with a provocative question about Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s now infamous attendance at a party held at a swanky
restaurant. “Just what was Gavin Newsom discussing at the
French Laundry?” the ad asks. The ad doesn’t answer the
question directly, but suggests the Democratic governor might
have discussed a proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant
with his lobbyist friend Jason Kinney, who hosted the event.
I came to the little town of Ojai in Ventura county with a
history of running municipal water conservation programs, most
recently working with Pasadena Water and Power as a drought
coordinator. We were at the end of a 6 year drought and I
started working for Patagonia, a clothing company with a social
and environmental ethic in Ventura, who hired me to review
either ocean desalination or connecting to the state water
project as water supply options. I recommended neither.
On Friday, the City of Antioch, along with local and
State dignitaries, broke ground on their new and historic
Brackish Water Desalination Plant. At a price of $110 million,
the project was made possible with $93 million in funding from
the State, and $17 million from the City of Antioch.
When Gov. Gavin Newsom was photographed dining at an opulent
Napa Valley restaurant during a surge in coronavirus cases,
many Californians saw it as hypocrisy. For opponents of a
planned $1-billion desalination plant along the Orange County
coast, however, the optics were menacing. The unmasked Newsom
was celebrating the birthday of a lobbyist for Poseidon Water,
which is close to obtaining final government approval for one
of the country’s biggest seawater desalination plants.
Lower groundwater levels can prevent drainage of water and
salts from a basin and increase aquifer salinity that
eventually renders the groundwater unsuitable for use as
drinking water or irrigation without expensive desalination.
Pauloo et al. (2021) demonstrate this process for the
Tulare Lake Basin (TLB) of California’s Central Valley. Even if
groundwater pumping does not cause overdraft, it can cause
hydrologic basin closure leading to progressive salinization
that will not cease until the basin is opened by allowing
natural or engineered exits for groundwater and dissolved salt.
The process, “Anthropogenic Basin Closure and Groundwater
Salinization (ABCSAL)”, is driven by human water
The Santa Ana Regional Water Board released a tentative order
Friday detailing proposed revisions to Poseidon Water’s
controversial proposed $1.4-billion water desalination project
in Huntington Beach. The board’s tentative order would make
Poseidon responsible for five mitigation projects, including
four projects within the Bolsa Chica Wetlands and the
restoration of a 41.5-acre rocky reef offshore of Palos
A large Canada-based utility service company has unveiled a
proposal to construct and operate a Moss Landing desalination
plant using brackish water from wells at the mouth of the
Salinas Valley. According to a Jan. 28 presentation by Liberty
Utilities official Kim Adamson, the proposal calls for a desal
plant capable of producing up to 32,000 acre-feet of drinking
water per year at a cost of about $1,000 to $1,500 per
acre-foot for Salinas, Castroville and Marina, and perhaps even
eventually the Monterey Peninsula.
Marina Coast Water District is small but influential in local
water issues, caught in the middle on various politically
fraught issues. For one, the water district—which is
adjacent to California American Water’s service area, but not
in it—has long been an antagonist to Cal Am. The one-time
partners on a now-defunct desalination project have been
embroiled in litigation over that former project for years. And
Marina Coast has been an outspoken leader in opposition to Cal
Am’s more recent proposed desalination project, fighting it
since the earliest steps.
If the natural water supply doesn’t meet the water needs of an
increased population, Marin is going to have to revisit the
idea of building a desalination plant. Currently, the largest
U.S. desalination plant in San Diego produces 50 million
gallons daily at a cost of one cent per gallon. That cost is
kept low given the San Diego’s plant is adjacent to a power
station. If Marin had to draw its power from MCE or Pacific Gas
and Electric Co., the cost would rise to 1.33 cents per gallon
or $10 per billing unit over and above normal water
charges. -Written by Rick Johnson, who worked 40 years with the San
Francisco Water Department as a senior inspector and revenue
recovery project manager.
A Monterey County Superior Court judge has set aside the
county’s approval of California American Water’s desalination
plant project over its rationale for why the project’s benefits
would outweigh environmental impacts in a lawsuit brought by
the Marina Coast Water District. At the same time, the judge
rejected a bid by Marina Coast to require the county to conduct
additional environmental review for the project as a result of
new information and changed circumstances…
As a resident of Marina and the president of the Board of
Directors of Marina Coast Water District, I feel it is very
important to correct inaccurate statements provided by former
Congressman Sam Farr. Yes, MCWD has needed to expend legal fees
in the past few years; however, the bulk of those fees are to
protect our precious water source from California American
Water. Cal Am seeks to construct a desalination plant that will
degrade our sole water supply source, groundwater… -Written by Jan Shriner, president of the Marina Coast
Water District board of directors.
The U.S. Department of Energy will soon announce semifinalists
for its Solar Desalination Prize. The goal: a system that
produces 1,000 liters of usable water for $1.50… Such
systems could surmount a big downside of reverse osmosis: it
typically desalinates only half of the input saltwater, and the
solution left behind eventually builds up enough salt to clog
Removing salt from seawater to make it safe to drink means
overcoming a number of scientific challenges, including
optimising the membrane used for the desalination process – and
new research into these membranes promises to make the whole
operation cheaper and more accessible in the future. Scientists
have figured out a way of potentially making membranes 30-40
percent more efficient in terms of the energy required to
The Eastern Municipal Water District will receive $25 million
in federal funds over the next several years to expand its
desalination program, increasing fresh water stocks and
reducing dependence on water imports, the agency announced
If Gov. Gavin Newsom can afford the $450 cost of having dinner
at the exclusive French Laundry restaurant in Napa, he probably
won’t bat an eye at increases in water bills like the ones
residents in Orange County would experience due to Poseidon
Water’s desalination project proposed in Huntington Beach. But
for Californians on low and fixed-incomes, and those already
suffering terribly from the health and economic impacts of the
COVID-19 pandemic, an unnecessary hike in water bills is a
cruel and undeserved burden. Written by Andrea
Leon-Grossman, climate action director at Azul, an
organization working with Latinxs to conserve coasts and
As it enters its 20th year of planning and preparation, a
desalination plant proposed near Doheny State Beach continues
to be met with delays and uncertainty. In mid-2018, officials
were predicting that the operation could be turning ocean water
into drinking water as soon as 2021. Now, the project will be
doing well to simply win all required permits by the end of
A highly effective but problematic Colorado River desalination
project in western Montrose County’s Paradox Valley could come
to an end due to the federal Bureau of Reclamation’s difficulty
finding an acceptable means of continuing it.
South Coast Water District is set to receive an $8.3 million
federal grant for the Doheny Ocean Desalination project secured
during the previous round of funding, a district spokesperson
said. The grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was
green lighted by Congress in 2019.
Since 2012 we haven’t moved the state’s water policy too far
forward. We now have a desalination plant successfully
online in San Diego County and have instituted water-saving
methods throughout the state. However, we are still facing a
crisis with the ever-evaporating snowpack, a continuously
warming climate and the reframing of the Delta tunnel project.
And this might make for a good long political debate, but the
reality of the situation is that most Californians do not have
the luxury of time for a political debate — they have
real-world needs, including the need to be able to provide
water for their children to drink. Written by Gloria Alvarado, executive director of the
Orange County Labor Federation.
Orange County sees past Poseidon’s efforts to buy support for
its desalination boondoggle. Why can’t Gov. Newsom? … Based
on Newsom’s 2019 Water Resilience Portfolio, you’d think the
governor would be highly skeptical of the Poseidon
project. -Written by Garry Brown, founding director of Orange County
A recent exchange of letters between a public utility and a
state water authority highlights the continued stalemate in the
effort by the Monterey Peninsula to develop a new water supply
and end the overdrafting of the Carmel River.
California American Water has re-filed its desalination project
permit application less than two months after withdrawing it on
the eve of a special Coastal Commission meeting. While the
company made changes to its desal project proposal in the
re-filed application, it has not yet met with Marina city
officials to resolve the issues prompting the city to oppose
It’s little surprise California American Water’s proposed
desalination project and the fate of a public buyout effort
aimed at acquiring the company’s local water system are at the
core of the contests for two seats on the Monterey Peninsula
Water Management District board of directors…
The Montecito Water District is buying into Santa Barbara’s
desalination plant, which converts salt water into fresh water.
The deal calls for Montecito to pick up $33 million dollars of
the recently rebuilt plant’s $72 million dollar price tag, as
well as to share in operational costs.
Seawater desalination operator Poseidon is poised to take over
the Agua Hedionda Lagoon maintenance dredging that has been
done by local power companies since 1954. Permits are being
obtained for the work to begin in November or early December
with expectations to finish by mid-April…
California is facing an impending water shortage. With
widespread fires, a COVID-19 provoked economic recession
bringing widespread unemployment and a public health emergency,
it would be easy, but not prudent, to forget that we face a
water crisis around the next corner.
Three candidates are competing for one seat on the West Basin
Municipal Water District board of directors, and an ambitious
plan for a water desalination plant off the coast of El Segundo
emerges as a major flashpoint.
While use of large seawater desalination plants will continue
to be limited to coastal communities, small-scale, localized
systems for distributed desalination will be essential to
cost-effectively tapping and reusing many of these
nontraditional water sources across the country.
For years, the Orange County Water District has expressed
interest in buying the desalted water, provided Poseidon
receives the necessary regulatory permits. But the water
district’s appetite for the controversial project could be in
jeopardy after Nov. 3, if two board members who support the
project are upset in their reelection bids and replaced by
Unfortunately, some Wall Street water companies are trying to
take advantage of California’s drought fears by pushing through
overpriced and unnecessary water projects. Poseidon Water Co.
is one of those companies. Poseidon has been working for years
to build a seawater desalination plant in Orange County,
seeking a deal that would lock the local utility into buying
their water for decades, regardless of need.
It would be an understatement to say our community has a lot on
its plate these days. Between the wildfires, COVID-19 and its
impact on human lives, not to mention our local economy, it’s
hard to imagine having more issues requiring our focus. And yet
one of the most important issues facing our community – our
water supply – is in a critical stage and needs public
engagement and attention.
There are mounting questions over whether Gov. Gavin Newsom
will replace William von Blasingame — an Irvine resident first
appointed to the regulatory seat in 2013 by former governor
Jerry Brown — when his current term on the Santa Ana Regional
Water Quality Control Board expires Sept. 30, ahead of his
panel’s vote on the Poseidon Water Co.’s desalination proposal.
The Vallecitos Water District in San Marcos filed a lawsuit
Thursday alleging the San Diego County Water Authority
overcharged by nearly $6 million for desalinated water that was
never delivered, despite an agreement to construct a pipeline
for that exact purpose.
Last week on these pages, you heard the President of California
American Water explain their rationale for withdrawing their
application for a desalination plant from the California
Coastal Commission the day before their Sept. 17 hearing. What
he didn’t tell you is that there is a feasible alternative
project that has less environmental impact, is more socially
just, and would be less costly to ratepayers
After years spent developing this project and making
adjustments to respond to stakeholder concerns, it became
obvious that we needed to take more time to address objections
raised by the community of Marina — namely that our project
would be built in their backyard without them receiving any
benefit from it.
Along a Huntington Beach coastline dotted with oil rigs and a
power plant, one of California’s largest remaining saltwater
marshes has been a source of pride for local environmentalists.
But the marsh, known as the Bolsa Chica Wetlands, is endangered
despite a years-long struggle to pull together sufficient
public funding for its upkeep.
The Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, which was
expected to make a decision Sept. 17 on the waste discharge
permit renewal for a proposed seawater desalination facility in
Orange County, has postponed action for several weeks at the
request of the applicant. Poseidon Waters, the company that
plans to build the $1 billion plant on 12 acres of the AES
Huntington Beach Generating Station, requested additional time
to address concerns raised in three days of public hearings…
This proposal by California American Water has become one of
the most complicated and fraught issues to come before the
California Coastal Commission, whose long-awaited vote on
Thursday could determine not only the contentious future
of water on the Monterey Peninsula — but also the role of
government in undoing environmental inequity.
The Monterey Peninsula is about to find out if a long-term
water supply will become a reality on Thursday as California’s
Coastal Commission is scheduled to hear the application for a
permit to build the desalination source water wells. The Farm
Bureau believes the permit is necessary to secure a reliable
water supply for Peninsula residents and businesses.
Expansion of the Pure Water Monterey recycled water project is
the best option for the Monterey region to meet its future
water supply needs. Unfortunately, California American Water
Co., a private water supplier, is discrediting the project in
hopes of getting approval for their much more costly, oversized
and environmentally harmful groundwater desalination project…
Nine months after the Coastal Commission conducted its first
hearing on California American Water’s proposed desalination
project, commission staff has again recommended denial of the
project in favor of a Pure Water Monterey expansion proposal.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.