News Feature | June 10, 2014

Santa Barbara To Reboot Desalination Plant

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


The coastal city of Santa Barbara is planning to spend millions firing up an inactive desalination plant as a way to combat the effects of the record-breaking California drought. 

"Santa Barbara is unique in one sense: It's currently preparing to refurbish and restart the city's water desalination plant, which has sat idle for nearly two decades," CBS News reported. The Charles Meyer Desalination Plant, offline since the '90s, is expected to provide a capacity of 3,000 acre-feet of drinking water per year.

Even with desalination infrastructure already in place that effort comes with a big price. Joshua Haggmark, the city's water resources manager, estimated that reactivating the plant will cost at least $20 million in capital costs. An additional $5 million will be needed annually for operating costs.  

The city is still studying the exact costs. Officials have "agreed to hire a company for $746,000 to report on what it will take to rebuild and restart the plant," KEYT reported. The report is expected in September. 

The plant has been inactive since the early 1990's. Back then, shutting down the plant cost $34 million. It was shut down because rainfall made it unnecessary.

The city is moving forward with the initial steps, approving contracts "for preliminary design services, specialty legal support and lobbying services at a cost of $935,628," Noozhawk reported

Desalination is often criticized by the environmental community because it is energy-intensive. “Many environmentalists think desalination should be a last resort," the Associated Press reported.

The desalination industry is growing quickly. Science Business recently reported that "6 million cubic metres per day of new desalination capacity came online in 2013, compared with just 4 million the year before, according to the International Desalination Association (IDA).  All told, the world is now producing more than 80 million cubic metres of desalinated water every day." 

Check out Water Online's Desalination Solution Center

Image credit: "Rocks and Water," Larry Johnson © 2013, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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