News | April 18, 2007

Major New Desalination Plant To Be Built In Southern California

PBS&J to serve as the engineer in responsible charge

Encinitas, CA — California's future water supply is less uncertain with the recent announcement by developer Poseidon Resources Corporation to design, construct, and launch a new desalination plant in Carlsbad, California, north of San Diego. PBS&J will join the team to create the $270 million dollar facility located at the coastal site of the Encina Power Station. When the plant opens in late 2009, it will pump 100 million gallons of ocean water per day through a reverse osmosis filtering process to render 50 million gallons of high-quality drinking water to roughly 300,000 citizens in San Diego County.

The team, selected by Poseidon, is led by Acciona Agua (formerly Pridesa America Corporation) and includes J.R. Filanc Construction Company, American Water, and PBS&J. PBS&J will be the engineer in responsible charge. It will be subcontracting with local firms including Simon Wong Engineering, a small business certified as both a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and Minority Business Enterprise (SMBE), with whom PBS&J has completed more than 80 structural engineering projects. PBS&J will be supported architecturally by the firm of Ferguson Pape Baldwin Architects based in San Diego. They have successfully completed many award-winning projects and were intimately involved in the initial studies of the desalination plant for the City of Carlsbad. Hofman Planning and Engineering, located in the City of Carlsbad, will assist with permitting implementation with the City of Carlsbad.

"From the outset, our strategy was to assemble local firms that not only live here and will drink the desalinated water, but who also understand southern California's water situation," said Charles A. "Skip" Griffin, Jr., P.E., BCEE, senior vice president of PBS&J's Encinitas office. "Our local staff is nearly one hundred strong and we have been doing master planning, design and construction management of local water and wastewater facilities for 20 years," continued Griffin who also noted that PBS&J's professional staff includes environmental scientists who frequently perform services to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

For decades, the San Diego area has been a center for desalination research, the crux of which is reverse osmosis filtration. Using high pressure, salt water is forced through dense layers of polymer membranes that trap salt on one side and allow only pure water molecules to filter through. The process also removes virtually all mineral and most biological/organic chemical compounds to produce high quality drinking water. In a two-to-one ratio, roughly two gallons of salt water must be processed for every one gallon of potable water obtained.

Due to technological advances in the RO membrane element designs and the pretreatment filtration systems, the cost to desalinate has dropped significantly, making desalination a cost-effective choice for municipalities. Poseidon currently has contracts with the City of Carlsbad and three other nearby water districts to buy approximately 60 percent of the treated water.

"The new facility will diminish the need to import water from Northern California and the Colorado River, as well as reduce the future cost of expanding local and regional water system's delivery capacity," commented Griffin. "We'll be helping to provide a drought-proof supply of water that exceeds all state and federal standards, while helping to create jobs and tax revenue for the City of Carlsbad."

Once finished, the plant is projected to employ a full-time staff of 18 and contribute approximately $37 million dollars in annual spending to San Diego County's economy.