News Feature | June 30, 2014

California Dives Into Desalination

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


California is taking the plunge into seawater desalination, and the coastal city of Carlsbad is leading the way. 

"Fifteen desalination projects are proposed along the coast from Los Angeles to San Francisco Bay. Desalination technology is becoming more efficient. And the state is mired in its third year of drought," the Daily Democrat reported.  

"So critics and backers alike are wondering whether [the Carlsbad desalination project], in a town better known as the home of Legoland and skateboard icon Tony Hawk, is ushering in a new era," the report said. 

The Carlsbad project could set the tone for the future of desalination in California. Coordinators aim to have water delivery up and running by 2016, according to project documents. That's after facing a long, hard road to regulatory approval. 

"After twelve years of planning and over six years in the state’s permitting process, the Carlsbad Desalination Project has received final approvals from every required regulatory and permitting agency in the state, including the California Coastal Commission, State Lands Commission and Regional Water Quality Control Board," the documents explain. 

"Everybody is watching Carlsbad to see what's going to happen," said Peter MacLaggan, vice president of Poseidon Water, the Boston firm constructing the facility, to the Daily Democrat

Construction seems to be on schedule. "A 10-mile pipeline that will carry water from a desalination plant in Carlsbad to a distribution network is halfway to completion, Poseidon Water and the San Diego County Water Authority announced [in May]," KPBS reported

Desalination is controversial in California, where environmentalists are wary of the idea that it is a silver bullet for the drought. 

A host of environmental groups said in a recent statement that "seawater desalination should only be pursued with caution and only after conservation, stormwater capture through the use of 'green infrastructure,' water use efficiency, and wastewater recycling have all been fully implemented," according to a blog post by the Natural Resources Defense Council.  

"These preferred alternatives are not only less expensive, they have additional benefits of preventing pollution, contributing to habitat restoration, and reducing energy usage," the post said. 

Check out Water Online's Desalination Solution Center.

Image credit: "Carlsbad Beach," lorenkerns © 2011, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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