Topic: Desalination



Recurrent droughts and uncertainties about future water supplies have led several California communities to look to saltwater for supplemental supplies through a process known as desalination.

Aquafornia news EurekAlert!

News release: Experts detail the abundance of diverse “unconventional water sources”

UN and partner water experts say it is time to increase the tapping of Earth’s diverse and abundant unconventional water sources – the millions of cubic kilometres of water in deep land-based and seabed aquifers, in fog and icebergs, in the ballast holds of thousands of ships, and elsewhere. A new book, Unconventional Water Resources … says these potential supplies can help many of the 1 in 4 people on Earth who face shortages of water for drinking, sanitation, agriculture and economic development.

Aquafornia news The San Francisco Examiner

As Bay Area faces prolonged drought, recycling and desalination are the only two real options

Despite being surrounded by water, Bay Area residents are routinely told during dry years to take shorter showers, let lawns brown and slow the rush of water from their taps. But as climate change prolongs drought and challenges local water supply, regional water managers are warning that none of those actions will be enough. Many say the time has come to invest in technically feasible, though politically and environmentally complicated alternatives like purifying wastewater and sucking salt out of seawater to bolster stores.

Aquafornia news Santa Rosa Press-Democrat

North Bay agencies seek $83 million to expand water recycling amid drought

Petaluma, one of the driest corners of Sonoma County during the past two years of drought, is making a multimillion-dollar advance into recycled water. Operator of a wastewater treatment plant that serves about 65,000 people and treats about 5 million gallons of effluent a day, Petaluma is seeking grants for four projects with a total cost of $42 million. Six other North Bay agencies — including Sonoma Water and the Sonoma Valley County Sanitation District — are proposing a dozen projects totaling $41.2 million, bringing the total to $83.2 million, as Gov. Gavin Newsom is backing water reuse as an antidote to drought.

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Aquafornia news San Diego Union-Tribune

East County’s $950M water recycling project could be in jeopardy as San Diego nixes pipeline deal

East County officials fear a $950 million sewage recycling project could get flushed down the drain because of a pipeline deal gone awry. Leaders spearheading the endeavor blame San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria — who signed off on building an eight-mile “brine line” as recently as last year but has since reneged on that commitment. The pipeline would prevent concentrated waste generated by the East County project’s reverse osmosis filtration system from entering into the city’s own $5 billion Pure Water sewage recycling project now under construction.

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Aquafornia news Mercury News

Cal Am not fazed by rejection of SoCal desal project

A Thursday ruling by the California Coastal Commission denying a Southern California desalination project appears as if it could impact the prospects of California American Water Co.’s plan to construct a desal plant along the Monterey Peninsula. But Cal Am says the Commission’s decision to deny Poseidon Water Co.’s Huntington Beach project and any impacts on Cal Am’s long-proposed desal project on the Monterey Peninsula is comparing apples to oranges.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Friday Top of the Scroll: California Coastal Commission rejects plan for Poseidon desalination plant

After hearing hours of heated debate, the California Coastal Commission voted against a controversial plan by the company Poseidon Water to build a huge desalination plant in Huntington Beach. Despite worsening drought and repeated calls from Gov. Gavin Newsom to tap the Pacific Ocean as a source of drinking water, commissioners voted unanimously against the plan Thursday night. The decision, which was recommended by commission staff, may end the company’s plans for the $1.4-billion plant.

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Aquafornia news CNN

As water runs short in California, commission will vote on whether to allow another costly desalination plant

As California battles a historic drought and a water crisis looms, the state’s coastline protection agency is poised to vote Thursday on whether it will allow a $1.4 billion desalinization plant in Huntington Beach that would convert ocean water into municipal water for Orange County residents. Poseidon Water, which has been trying to build the plant for decades, says it would be capable of producing up to 50 million gallons of drinking water a day, helping to make the region more drought resilient. But desalination opponents argue less expensive and less harmful conservation tactics should be the first resort.

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Aquafornia news The Guardian

California to decide fate of controversial desalination plant amid brutal drought

California officials are poised to decide the fate of a controversial desalination plant planned along its southern coast, in a vote that comes as the American west battles an increasingly perilous drought. California water use leapt 19% in March, amid one of the driest months on record. After more than a decade of debate, the California coastal commission on Thursday will finally vote on a proposal for a $1.4 bn desalination plant in Huntington Beach, south of Los Angeles.

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Aquafornia news ABC 10 San Diego

Final vote for Huntington Beach desalination plant expected

Poseidon Water, the company that runs the seawater desalination facility in Carlsbad, is pushing to build another desalination plant in Huntington Beach. … Recently a California Coastal Commission staff report recommended that the project be denied. The California-based ’Stop Poseidon’ coalition praised that recommendation, but on May 12th, the commission will have a final vote, deciding if the company will move forward with construction. The Coastal Commission Public Hearing is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. Thursday, in Costa Mesa.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: California crises abound, but they won’t be debated

Throughout the state, water agencies are telling Californians that they must seriously curtail lawn watering and other water uses. We can probably scrape through another dry year, but were drought to persist, its impacts would likely be widespread and permanent. … It didn’t have to be this way. We could have built more storage to capture water during wet years, we could have encouraged more conservation, we could have more efficiently captured and treated wastewater for re-use and we could have embraced desalination.
-Written by Dan Walters, CalMatters columnist.  

Aquafornia news The Business Journal

Blog: Doubling down on Diablo Canyon nuclear plant could ease energy, water woes

[D]esalinization … draws in saltwater and, utilizing reverse osmosis, purifies the water to a consumable standard. Around the globe, countries have adopted desalinization as a considerable part of their water portfolio. … California is shockingly behind the curve when it comes to embracing the practice. .. Rather than removing [Diablo Canyon Power Plant] from the region, we should double down on production and build an additional site to power a mega-sized desalinization plant.
-Written by Assemblymember Devon J. Mathis. 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Huntington Beach desalination project would be money down the drain

As North Orange County residents, we are concerned about our future water supplies, and we hate seeing bad investments made with public dollars — especially for private entities. While North Orange County may not have the same drought burdens as other communities across California — given our robust aquifer — we know Brookfield-Poseidon’s proposed Huntington Beach Ocean Desalination Project is not the answer to bringing new water resources to our region.
-Written by Kelly E. Rowe, an engineering geologist, hydro-geologist and Orange County Water District director; and Karl W. Seckel,  water resources engineer and a director of the Municipal Water District of Orange County.  

Aquafornia news Orange County Register

Editorial: Newsom gets it right on desalination

Kudos to Gov. Gavin Newsom for increasing his support for the $1.4 billion Poseidon Water desalination in Huntington Beach. … California is thirsty. And another drought is making us thirstier. … Water authorities already are asking Californians to cut down on shower times, watering lawns and washing cars. Gov. Newsom’s “more tools in the tool kit” approach is the right one.

Aquafornia news Dana Point Times

Bipartisan legislation supports desalination research, projects

New legislation that U.S. Reps. Mike Levin and Nancy Mace introduced late last month could provide more grant funding to the study and advancement of desalination technology, benefiting endeavors including the proposed Doheny Ocean Desalination Project in Dana Point. If enacted, H.R. 7612, or the Desalination Research Advancement Act, would increase the number of research grants the Bureau of Reclamation is authorized to fund, raising the cap from $5 million to $20 million per year through the 2026 fiscal year.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Kill the Huntington Beach desalination project already

When it comes to wasteful, overpriced and ill-considered proposals to address California’s water supply issues, it’s hard to know where to start. But a good place would be the plan to build a desalination plant on the Pacific coast at Huntington Beach. … As I’ve reported in the past, there isn’t much to recommend the Huntington Beach project. It would seriously damage the marine coastal environment, produce the costliest water of any source available and raise water bills for residents and businesses.
-Written by Michael Hiltzik, LA Times business columnist.

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Aquafornia news Marin Independent Journal

Marin water districts study options for new supply

Marin County’s two largest water utilities are working to narrow down what new sources of supply would provide the most benefit in droughts. The North Marin Water District presented findings of a study looking at how to bolster supplies for the more than 60,000 residents it serves in its greater Novato service area. The top scorers were projects to enhance the storage at the district’s Stafford Lake reservoir. Other options such as desalination, creating new reservoirs, dredging the lake and a major recycled water expansion were deemed too expensive or infeasible given the district’s size.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Newsom: $1.4 billion desalination project should be approved by California Coastal Commission

Citing California’s worsening drought conditions, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday made a powerful new push for a controversial $1.4 billion desalination plant on the state’s coastline. The proposed oceanfront facility in Huntington Beach has been under debate for more than 20 years, and its fate could set a course for other desalination plants on the state’s coast. The California Coastal Commission is scheduled to take a final vote on the project in two weeks. … Newsom said a no vote by the full commission to kill the project would be “a big mistake, a big setback.”

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Essential California: As some cities face water restrictions, a desalination debate grows

California’s extreme drought over the last three years has been intensified by hotter temperatures, putting strains on the shrinking reserves in the state’s reservoirs. … Yet even as the northern third of the MWD’s vast service area faces unprecedented water restrictions, a different sort of struggle is underway in Orange County, where a company’s plan to build a large desalination plant is to face a critical vote next month before the California Coastal Commission.

Aquafornia news Spectrum News 1

The heated debate over desalination in Huntington Beach

Growing up in Anaheim, the beach and the ocean served as a place of solace for Orange County Coastkeeper Founder and President Garry Brown, who created the nonprofit to help protect the place he loves most. … In their mission to protect water in Orange County, they’ve taken a stance on a divisive issue affecting their community — whether the region needs desalination, a costly, energy-intensive process that uses reverse osmosis technology to remove salt from seawater to make drinking water.

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Aquafornia news Press Telegram

Opinion: You can have a new showerhead, but you can’t have any new water

Would it surprise you to know that California could have all the water anybody could want, but various government officials refuse to take the actions that would provide it? Consider, for example, the recent report by the staff of the California Coastal Commission about the long-suffering proposal for a desalination plant in Huntington Beach. The staff recommended that the commissioners vote to kill the project. Poseidon Water’s project was first proposed in 1998.
-Written by Susan Shelley. 

Aquafornia news Reuters

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: California desalination plant hits regulatory hurdle

A proposed California desalination plant that would produce 50 million gallons of drinking water per day failed a crucial regulatory hurdle on Monday, possibly dooming a project that had been promoted as a partial solution for sustained drought. The staff of the California Coastal Commission recommended denying approval of the Huntington Beach plant proposed by Poseidon Water … [and] said the project was more susceptible to sea-level rise than was understood when it was first proposed more than two decades ago.

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Aquafornia news Tri County Sentry

Groundwater desalter improvement project amended

The city council, Tuesday, April 19, approved amendment agreement A-8332 with SPI (Separation Processes Inc) for the Groundwater Desalter Improvement Project. THE approval executes a first amendment to the agreement in the amount of $263,702 for a new contract not to exceed $1.064 million for additional design work required for the groundwater desalter improvement project. The deal also approves a $263,703 budget appropriation transfer from the Water Appropriations to the Capital Water Project.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Decision looms for controversial Poseidon desalination plant

Among the many complex arguments over water in California, one particularly heated debate centers on whether the state should seek more drinking water from a plentiful but expensive source: the Pacific Ocean. The debate has reached a critical stage in Huntington Beach, where Poseidon Water has been trying for more than two decades to build one of the country’s largest desalination plants. The California Coastal Commission is scheduled to vote next month on whether to grant a permit to build the plant.

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Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

Pure Water Monterey source water questioned by businesses

A group of business interests that have been historic cheerleaders for a Monterey Peninsula desalination project has written a letter to officials at Pure Water Monterey, the provider of potable recycled water along the Monterey Peninsula, questioning the adequacy of source water for it and a planned expansion of the project, questions Pure Water Monterey says it has already answered. The Pure Water Monterey project is key to helping solve the Peninsula’s chronic water shortages as state regulators have significantly scaled back the amount of water that can be pumped from the Carmel River.

Aquafornia news Arizona Public Media

Ducey desalination proposal carries hefty price tag

This Friday marks Earth Day. This year the drought and dwindling water supplies top the list of environmental challenges here in the southwest. Scientists remain at odds over Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan to help solve Arizona’s water issues by desalinating water from the Sea of Cortez. Ducey unveiled the idea in his State of the State address earlier this year. He proposed a $1 billion project to draw treated water to Morelos Dam near Yuma, but the challenges to the idea remain difficult to solve.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

Often Short of Water, California’s Southern Central Coast Builds Toward A Drought-Proof Supply
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Water agencies in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo counties look to seawater, recycled water to protect against water shortages

The spillway at Lake Cachuma in central Santa Barbara County. Drought in 2016 plunged its storage to about 8 percent of capacity.The southern part of California’s Central Coast from San Luis Obispo County to Ventura County, home to about 1.5 million people, is blessed with a pleasing Mediterranean climate and a picturesque terrain. Yet while its unique geography abounds in beauty, the area perpetually struggles with drought.

Indeed, while the rest of California breathed a sigh of relief with the return of wet weather after the severe drought of 2012–2016, places such as Santa Barbara still grappled with dry conditions.

With Drought Plan in Place, Colorado River Stakeholders Face Even Tougher Talks Ahead On The River’s Future
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Talks are about to begin on a potentially sweeping agreement that could reimagine how the Colorado River is managed

Lake Mead, behind Hoover Dam, shows the effects of nearly two decades of drought. Even as stakeholders in the Colorado River Basin celebrate the recent completion of an unprecedented drought plan intended to stave off a crashing Lake Mead, there is little time to rest. An even larger hurdle lies ahead as they prepare to hammer out the next set of rules that could vastly reshape the river’s future.

Set to expire in 2026, the current guidelines for water deliveries and shortage sharing, launched in 2007 amid a multiyear drought, were designed to prevent disputes that could provoke conflict.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Flood Management Gary Pitzer

Southern California Water Providers Think Local in Seeking to Expand Supplies
WESTERN WATER SIDEBAR: Los Angeles and San Diego among agencies pursuing more diverse water portfolio beyond imports

The Claude “Bud” Lewis Desalination Plant in Carlsbad last December marked 40 billion gallons of drinking water delivered to San Diego County during its first three years of operation. The desalination plant provides the county with more than 50 million gallons of water each day.Although Santa Monica may be the most aggressive Southern California water provider to wean itself from imported supplies, it is hardly the only one looking to remake its water portfolio.

In Los Angeles, a city of about 4 million people, efforts are underway to dramatically slash purchases of imported water while boosting the amount from recycling, stormwater capture, groundwater cleanup and conservation. Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2014 announced a plan to reduce the city’s purchase of imported water from Metropolitan Water District by one-half by 2025 and to provide one-half of the city’s supply from local sources by 2035. (The city considers its Eastern Sierra supplies as imported water.)

Central Coast Tour 2019
Field Trip - November 6-7

This 2-day, 1-night tour offered participants the opportunity to learn about water issues affecting California’s scenic Central Coast and efforts to solve some of the challenges of a region struggling to be sustainable with limited local supplies that have potential applications statewide.

Western Water Magazine

Tapping the Ocean: What is the Role of Desalination?
Winter 2016

This issue looks at the role of ocean desalination in meeting California’s water needs today and in the future.

Western Water Magazine

Tapping the World’s Largest Reservoir: Desalination
January/February 2003

This issue examines desalination and the role it could play in the future of water supply. In addition to an explanation of the basics of the technology, the article looks at costs, environmental impacts and groundwater application. Pilot desalination projects are featured, including a much-touted Carlsbad, Calif., facility that promises to substantially boost that region’s water supply.

Western Water Magazine

Desalination: A Drought Proof Supply?
July/August 2009

This printed issue of Western Water examines desalination – an issue that is marked by great optimism and controversy – and the expected role it might play as an alternative water supply strategy.

Western Water Magazine

Making the Connection: The Water/Energy Nexus
September/October 2010

This printed issue of Western Water looks at the energy requirements associated with water use and the means by which state and local agencies are working to increase their knowledge and improve the management of both resources.

Western Water Magazine

Viewing Water with a Wide Angle Lens: A Roundtable Discussion
January/February 2013

This printed issue of Western Water features a roundtable discussion with Anthony Saracino, a water resources consultant; Martha Davis, executive manager of policy development with the Inland Empire Utilities Agency and senior policy advisor to the Delta Stewardship Council; Stuart Leavenworth, editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee and Ellen Hanak, co-director of research and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California.


A Climate of Change: Water Adaptation Strategies

This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an excellent overview of climate change and how it is already affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are underway to plan and adapt to climate.


Salt of the Earth: Salinity in California’s Central Valley

Salt. In a small amount, it’s a gift from nature. But any doctor will tell you, if you take in too much salt, you’ll start to have health problems. The same negative effect is happening to land in the Central Valley. The problem scientists call “salinity” poses a growing threat to our food supply, our drinking water quality and our way of life. The problem of salt buildup and potential – but costly – solutions are highlighted in this 2008 public television documentary narrated by comedian Paul Rodriguez.


Salt of the Earth: Salinity in California’s Central Valley (20-minute DVD)

A 20-minute version of the 2008 public television documentary Salt of the Earth: Salinity in California’s Central Valley. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues surrounding the problem of salt build up in the Central Valley potential – but costly – solutions. Narrated by comedian Paul Rodriquez.


Stormwater Management: Turning Runoff into a Resource

20-minute DVD that explains the problem with polluted stormwater, and steps that can be taken to help prevent such pollution and turn what is often viewed as a “nuisance” into a water resource through various activities.


Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst (60-minute DVD)

Many Californians don’t realize that when they turn on the faucet, the water that flows out could come from a source close to home or one hundreds of miles away. Most people take their water for granted; not thinking about the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state. Where drinking water comes from, how it’s treated, and what people can do to protect its quality are highlighted in this 2007 PBS documentary narrated by actress Wendie Malick. 


Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst (30-minute DVD)

A 30-minute version of the 2007 PBS documentary Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues surrounding the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state.


Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management
Published 2013

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background information on the principles of IRWM, its funding history and how it differs from the traditional water management approach.


Layperson’s Guide to Water Recycling
Updated 2013

As the state’s population continues to grow and traditional water supplies grow tighter, there is increased interest in reusing treated wastewater for a variety of activities, including irrigation of crops, parks and golf courses, groundwater recharge and industrial uses.

Aquapedia background

Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Salinity

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta always has been at the mercy of river flows and brackish tides.

Before human intervention, salty ocean water from the San Francisco Bay flooded the vast Delta marshes during dry summers when mountain runoff ebbed. Then, during winter, heavy runoff from the mountains repelled sea water intrusion.

Aquapedia background



Recurrent droughts and uncertainties about future water supplies have led several California communities to look to treat salty water for supplemental supplies through a process known as desalination.

Desalination removes salt and other dissolved minerals from water and is one method to reclaim water for other uses. This can occur with ocean water along the coast and in the interior at spots that draw from ancient salt water deep under the surface or where groundwater has been tainted by too much salt.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Desalination: A Drought Proof Supply?
July/August 2009

It seems not a matter of if but when seawater desalination will fulfill the promise of providing parts of California with a reliable, drought-proof source of water. With a con­tinuing drought and uncertain water deliveries, the state is in the grip of a full-on water crisis, and there are many people who see desalination as a way to provide some relief to areas struggling to maintain an adequate water supply.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Tapping the World’s Largest Reservoir: Desalination
Jan/Feb 2003

“Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
For time immemorial, the seas of the Earth have been seen as an enticing but unreachable source of fresh water. Separating the salt from ocean water was always a cost prohibitive process, primarily reserved to wealthy Middle Eastern nations and small-scale operations such as ocean-bound vessels and small islands. Otherwise, through the evolution of modern civilization, man has depended upon lakes, rivers and groundwater – a supply that comprises less than 3 percent of the planet’s total water.